Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A positive resolution

Last month I blogged about the absolutely unbelievable response to an OIA request I received from the office of Nick Smith. Having asked for his staff to trawl through their file copies of OIA requests to compile basic performance data, I was told that no file copies were kept - a violation of both basic office procedure and of the Public Records Act. So, I complained to the Ombudsman. And lo and behold, they managed to find some records and compile the data. Its amazing what they can find if they bother to look.

Smith was right to be ashamed of his data. It shows an appalling negligence in handling OIA requests, with only 61.5% answered within the statutory 20 working days. His average response time was 21.1 days, and his median 20 days - meaning that fully 50% of responses were handled beyond the timelines envisioned by the Act (the difference between this and the late stat is because some requests were extended). The scary thing is that Smith is by no means the worst of National's Ministers - hell, he's not even in the lower quartile. Unlike the rest, though, he seemed to feel decently ashamed of it. Unfortunately, that shame was expressed in trying to hide the details, rather than improving performance.

The lesson in this is do not take shit from Ministers. If a response looks dubious, complain to the Ombudsmen. Its what they're there for. And usually all it takes is for them to let the Minister know that a complaint has been lodged for the bullshit to stop.