Tuesday, December 22, 2020

A hole in the OIA

Back in 2016, the then-National government did a dodgy deal in which NZ Post - a state-owned enterprise - sold 45% of Kiwibank to the Superannuation fund and ACC, both crown entities. The effect of the deal was to "allow the state-owned enterprise to repay debt [and] pay a special dividend to the government" - effectively plundering the savings of those crown entities for some quick cash. But it had another effect as well: to remove Kiwbank from the coverage of the Official Information Act.

Previously, Kiwibank had been covered by the OIA as a related company of a state enterprise. But the definition of this in s2(1A) of the Act is very specific: to be included, a company must be wholly controlled by one or more state-owned enterprises. If there is any ownership by non-SOEs, then it is no longer covered, even if the other owners are also government entities or wholly government-owned.

This shouldn't be the case. Where local government is concerned, we apply a strict principle: (local) government control means transparency. With a few exceptions, if something is majority controlled by one or more local governments, it is a "council-controlled organisation", and CCOs are subject to the LGOIMA. But for some reason we don't apply this scheme to companies with an identical ownership structure, but a central rather than local government owner. That needs to change. Kiwibank is government-controlled, and so should be subject to the OIA. And so should every other government-controlled company or organisation.