Friday, August 03, 2012

OIA Survey: First results

For the past two years, I've done an annual survey of Ministers and government departments, requesting their raw OIA tracking logs and using them to compute performance statistics. I'm doing it again this year, and the first results have been trickling in.

Unlike previous years, I've decided to put the data straight on the web via Google docs. You can read it here. Its still very much a work in progress - I've only done half the Ministers so far, and no departments; it will be gradually updated over the next few weeks as I process the data and the final results trickle in.

However, there's already some useful results. Both Chris Finlayson and Gerry Brownlee are being true to form - one good, the other abysmal. And David Carter has emerged as a contender for "New Zealand's least transparent Minister", handling only 46.2% of requests within statutory limits.

(An explanation of terms: a request is excluded if it has been cancelled or the data on it is incomplete. It is "outstanding" if it was not answered at the time of the survey: 1 July 2012 (this is just the churn in the system, and a picture of overhead). It is late if it is not answered within the statutory time limit (20 working days plus extensions). It is "late and incomplete" is it was not answered by the time of the survey, and was overdue. Mean and median times are computed from completed requests, and do not account for "late & incomplete" ones).

Obviously, timeliness is just one way of measuring OIA compliance, and a pretty basic one at that. Ideally, we'd be able to look at quality of decision-making as well: whether Ministers and Departments withheld any information, and whether the withholding grounds were correctly applied. But information on that isn't so easily available (it would require looking at actual responses, which could raise privacy issues), and interpreting it raises judgement issues as well. So, I've gone with what is easily measured, with an acknowledgement that this is not the whole picture. If people want a better picture, then we'll need a government body to do ongoing monitoring.