Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Whanau Ora providers must be subject to the OIA

Yesterday, Whanau Ora Minister Tariana Turia revealed how she'd be managing her whanau ora programme: through three NGOs. Unfortunately, she hasn't decided yet whether they will be subject to the Official Information Act:

Three yet to be established non- government organisations (NGOs) will distribute Whanau Ora funds to the North Island, South Island and Pacific communities, a structure which could mean more of the activities escape the scrutiny of the Official Information Act.


She did not know whether the NGOs would be subject to scrutiny under the act.

They bloody well should be. To point out the obvious, these organisations will be spending public money. Public oversight under the OIA is a fundamental part of that. In this country, not even our spies get to escape that.

But even if Turia doesn't do the decent thing and bring them explicitly under the Act, they're arguably covered anyway due to section 2(5) of the Act:
Any information held by an independent contractor engaged by any department or Minister of the Crown or organisation in his capacity as such contractor shall, for the purposes of this Act, be deemed to be held by the department or Minister of the Crown or organisation.

Turia can either have these organisations answer requests themselves, or she can spend the rest of her Ministerial career demanding information from them so as to answer on their behalf. But she can't just expect to hand over public money with no scrutiny and no oversight.

(And while we're at it: what these bodies will really need is oversight by the Ombudsman. Someone should really be asking Turia about that...)