Wednesday, September 08, 2021

The OIA has a problem with extensions

The Ombudsman released their latest OIA complaint stats today, and the headline is a rise in overall complaints. But buried in the data is something interesting: extension complaints have increased massively. There were 54 complaints about extensions in the first half of this year, compared to 29 in the previous six months and 33 in the six months before that. Which looks like a step change in the numbers.

As for the reason, well, agencies are using extensions to juke the stats, so its not really surprising that requesters are objecting to that. And as the Ombudsman notes, complaints are an essential part of making the system work and ensuring that decisions are lawful and reasonable:

Mr Boshier says there may be a number of reasons why information requests are refused and requesters were doing the right thing by complaining to the Chief Ombudsman if they were unhappy with the response.
So, if any agency extends your OIA request for "consultations", ask them immediately "who are you consulting and why could it not be done within the statutory timeframes?". And if you don't like their answer, or they don't respond at all, then I've written a guide on how to make extension complaints here.