Thursday, August 28, 2014

Public servants are now afraid to do their duty

How afraid are public servants of Judith Collins? So afraid they won't perform their legal duty and transfer "political" OIA requests to her office.

An FYI user asked the Ministry of Justice for information about the handling of OIA requests similar to those sent by Cameron Slater - basically to get some hard evidence on whether his explanation held, or whether journalists were being dicked around. The request was obviously misdirected, and should have gone to the Minister. In such circumstances, the receiving agency has a clear legal duty to transfer the request. And they always do.

Except in this case, where the Ministry staffer asked that the requester call them for an explanation (helpful), before effectively refusing the request. They did at least provide contact details for the Minister's office, but didn't transfer. I have never seen this before in a decade of requests. In my experience, where an agency doesn't hold the information sought, but knows who does (or might), they simply transfer it, problem solved. I'd especially expect this from the Ministry of Justice, which has a good record on OIA requests (and which is responsible for administering the law).

Of course, that means that there's a highly political OIA transferred to the Minister's office with a public servant's name on it. And in the wake of the revelations in Dirty Politics about what the Minister does to public servants who displease her (leaks their name and contact information to the sewer, where they receive death threats from her panting fanboys), I can understand why they might not want to do that. But it is unlawful, not to mention dysfunctional. And if public servants are this afraid in performing their routine legal duties, imagine how afraid they are if they have to give the Minister advice she doesn't want to hear...