Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Pure incompetence

Recently I've been taking an interest in the processes government agencies have for handling and tracking OIA requests. The aim of this project is to find out whether it is possible to use agencies own internal tracking software to generate OIA performance statistics for government departments. But departments aren't the only agencies responsible under the OIA - Ministerial offices handle a large number of requests as well. So I've begun poking into them too.

From the responses I've had back so far, it seems the standard way Ministerial staff track OIA requests is via a spreadsheet or Word document, which records things like the date a request was received on, when a response is due, the requestor's name and address, the general subject of the request, and when a response was sent. Which is what you'd expect. Except that not every Minister's staff does this. For example, Tony Ryall's staff for the State Sector portfolio track requests coming in - but make no effort to track when responses were sent - or whether one was sent at all.

This is pure incompetence. How the hell can they tell if they're complying with the Act if they don't track this?

(I should add: Ryall's staff in the State Sector Health portfolio do things properly. Which invites the question: do these people ever talk to one another?)

The worry is that this could be widespread through Ministerial offices (at least one government department seems to have the same problem). And if it is, then its no wonder responses are regularly late.