Friday, November 28, 2014

Utter contempt for the OIA

The OIA is very clear: requests must be answered "as soon as reasonably practicable, and in any case not later than 20 working days [of receipt]". While that time limit can be extended, that can only be done if a request is for a large quantity of information, or if consultations are required, and it must be done within the 20-day limit.

Last night, over Twitter (and with further details via email), I heard of an appalling violation of these clauses.

The requester lodged an OIA request on 11 October. There was no acknowledgement of receipt, and no response by the deadline of 10 November. When the requester called to inquire, they were told they would not be getting one any time soon, not even within 20 working days from the date of inquiry. When reminded of the law, the agency said "Yes, I'm breaking the law and that's the way it is".

The agency in question? The police. Who are charged with upholding the law. Somehow, I don't think they'd be too impressed if a burglar said that to them.

This is utter contempt for the OIA and a wilful violation of the law. The Ombudsman isn't preventing such behaviour, so I'm wondering: do we need to start bringing private prosecutions against state agencies (and individual bureaucrats) for contravention of statute?