Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Thwarting the OIA

The Ombudsmen have released their annual report [PDF], and in it they take serious exception to the public service playing games with Official Information Act requests. Some departments - unnamed - had a disturbing tendency to game the system and delay requests until the information was no longer timely. The Ombudsmen think this is unacceptable, and I agree. The OIA is crystal clear: requests must be handled

as soon as reasonably practicable, and in any case not later than 20 working days after the day on which the request is received
That 20 days is a ceiling, not a floor.

The Ombudsmen have been educating chief executives and auditing processes in the hope of getting some improvement in this area, and it will be interesting to see if that produces results. However, there is another option: the change of government means new Ministers, who will be in the process of setting clear expectations for their Chief Executives. They could do a lot worse than emulating Chris Carter in telling their public servants that they expect OIAs to be prioritised over other work and handled ASAP.

Another part of the report people might find interesting is the section on p. 23 on "publicly funded organisations not subject to Ombudsmen’s jurisdiction". I see a Member's Bill in that...