Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Asia New Zealand Foundation and the OIA

The Asia New Zealand Foundation is a charitable trust established by the government. All members of the trust are appointed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and several key public servants are deemed ex officiio members. The trust exists to fulfil a government objective - strengthening relationships with Asia - and is accountable to Parliament for that mission under the Public Finance Act. Over 90% of its revenue comes from the government (and most of the rest is interest from past government endowments). And yet, it is apparently not subject to the Official Information Act. They're not explicitly scheduled, and as far as I can tell, do not fall into any of the categories in the various schedules. Weirdly, many of the organisations in schedule 4A of the Public Finance Act are subject to the OIA, though not according to any system that I can determine.

That said, you may be able to obtain information from the Secretary of MFAT, the CEO of NZTE, or the Secretary of Education by the roundabout way of s2(4A) OIA: because they're on the trust solely in connection with their official position, any information they hold about the Foundation from that source is thereby Official Information. And conveniently, the trust deed requires that they get sent board papers ahead of any meeting...

But obviously, you shouldn't have to do that. This is clearly a government body. It is spending our money. And it should be accountable to us, through the OIA.

The government could fix this - and all of the other weird little exceptions and exemptions - in an instant by adding it to the OIA schedule by Order in Council. The question is, will it? And if not, does anybody want to take a member's bill to fix it?