Monday, June 26, 2017

OIA timeliness complaints

Official Information Act requests are supposed to be responded to "as soon as reasonably practicable, and in any case not later than 20 working days after the day on which the request is received". But as we all know, delays are common. Apparently 23% of all OIA complaints to the Ombudsman are about delays, and previously every single one of them resulted in a (time-consuming) formal investigation. But from 1 July, that will change. The Ombudsman is introducing a new, streamlined approach to handling OIA delay complaints, which basicly boils down to recognising that a formal investigation is fairly pointless if the requester now has the information. Which is sensible, and a good way to focus the Ombudsman's resources on the cases that need it. But before you start thinking that this is letting agencies off easy:

To ensure that repeated non-compliance or any other apparent systemic issues are identified and addressed, all delay complaints will be logged and tracked by the Office of the Ombudsman.

In addition, the number of OIA delay complaints received and completed will be published on a six-monthly basis, as part of our current publication of OIA complaints data project.

So, delinquent agencies will be named and shamed, and it is likely that the worst offenders will face formal investigations into their OIA systems. Its a good move, and one I support. And maybe it'll be worth complaining about timeliness again...