Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Local government fails the transparency test

That's the view of Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier:

The chief ombudsman says local democracy is being undermined as councils fail to meet obligations to release public information.

Peter Boshier said councils are not meeting their responsibilities under the Local Government Official Information and Meeting Act and that some councils seem to resent having to be held accountable.

"The performance of many councils is disappointing. Local government is absolutely fundamental to democracy, and in that respect the need for accountability and supply of information is just as strong as it is with central government, and yet many local councils don't see it that way.

"We will commence a better process of publicising our data on complaints, giving better guidance and encouraging an earlier dispute resolution process so ratepayers who often have legitimate complaints can get to the end of the journey earlier than before."

This matches my experience. Local government agencies tend to be less familiar with the requirements of the LGOIMA, and generally less forthcoming with information. And if you look at the sorts of responses they give on FYI, its the same picture. As for what to do about it, for central government agencies, we address this sort of problem with training and performance statistics. Extending that regime to local government would seem to be a good first step.