Friday, July 23, 2010

Absolutely unbelievable

As some of you may know, I've recently been running a project to gather performance information on OIA compliance from government Ministers and departments. The system for this is simple: first, ask how the agency tracks requests. If they say they use a spreadsheet or database, request it. If they don't, or if the data is inadequate, ask them to compile the information from filed correspondence.

Today I received the most appalling response yet to one of these requests. In response to a request to Nick Smith's office for a trawl of paper records (brought on by their crap tracking spreadsheet), I was told by his Senior Private Secretary that:

the Minister's office does not keep paper or digital records of its OIA correspondence.
This is absolutely unbelievable. Quite apart from it being a basic part of office administration to keep file copies of all correspondence, Ministers have a statutory duty under the Public Records Act to
create and maintain full and accurate records of its affairs, in accordance with normal, prudent business practice
If Smith's SPS's contention is true, his office is managed incompetently and behaving unlawfully. Alternatively, they're just blatantly lying in an effort to make an unwelcome request go away. Since its Nick Smith, I'm not really sure what to think. But I'm sure the Ombudsmen will get to the bottom of it for me.