Wednesday, January 22, 2020

A casual attitude towards transparency

Back in December, when the government was introducing new secrecy legislation on an almost daily basis, I posted about the Infrastructure Funding and Financing Bill. The Bill establishes a new class of public entity, "special purpose vehicles", which collect and spend public money and enjoy statutory powers. Despite this, they will not be subject to the Official Information Act or LGOIMA.

With that sort of divergance from normal NZ constitutional practice, you'd expect there to be some advice for it, making a case for secrecy. So I asked for it. But according to the Department of Internal Affairs' response, the only advice on the transparency regime is in the Bill's Regulatory Impact Assessment, which says:

No Official Information Act requirements (unless they already exist (i.e. if SPV is Crown/local authority)) as the Monitor will most likely be subject to the OIA.
Which is an awfully casual attitude to what the government is proclaiming in its new Public Service Legislation Bill to be a core public service value. Again, these entities will collect and spend public money and enjoy statutory powers. The DIA admit in their RIS concern about "abuse of the delegated charging right and misappropriation of funds". Arms-length transparency through a statutory Monitor is simply not good enough.