Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The failure of the Ombudsman

The Ombudsman released their annual report today, and its dismal. Yes, they've worked enormously hard, receiving 1,207 OIA complaints and completing 1,623 - more than twice as many as they are funded to handle. But they utterly failed to meet their timeliness targets, closing:


They also note that they had a significant decrease in complaints about unreasonable delays and deemed refusals. Given those timeliness stats, I can understand why: there's just no point anymore. It takes so long for the Ombudsman to notice a complaint and send that polite letter telling an agency to comply with the law that you might as well not bother, because even the most foot-dragging agency will respond first.

This is what happen when you fund your watchdog agency for only two-thirds of the workload it usually receives: it can't cope, and people lose faith in it. And that faith, once lost, is extremely difficult to get back.

The simple fact is that if the Ombudsman receives ~1200 OIA complaints a year, they should be funded to process that many. Because the cost of not processing them is agencies and Ministers running riot, and the public learning that the law is a joke. And that's not good for our democracy. Sadly, it is very good for those Ministers, which is why the problem has been allowed to fester for so long.