Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Ombudsman on privatisation and transparency

Last month, former Ombudsman Mel Smith criticised the government's plans to remove part-privatised SOE's from the OIA, saying that there he "can't see any argument at all to remove them". Today, Chief Ombudsman Beverley Wakem has weighed in in agreement:

The Government's plan to block public scrutiny of partially privatised power companies is unjustified on commercial grounds and will see a valuable part of the democratic process lost, Chief Ombudsman Beverley Wakem has warned.


Ms Wakem - whose office investigates public complaints against the Government - said the fact that the Crown was maintaining controlling stakes in the companies on behalf of the public demonstrated their importance to New Zealand's interests.

The sale of a minority shareholding in them did not affect the reasoning for them being subject to the independent oversight and accountability provided through the Ombudsman Act and the Official Information Act (OIA).

I agree. There is a clear principle, established in the Local Government Act, that majority public ownership equals transparency. If its good enough for majority council-owned bus companies, forests and airports, its good enough for majority government-owned electricity companies and airlines. We own them; we should be able to see what they are doing. It is that simple.