Monday, July 30, 2018

Improving the OIA

The New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties has released a proposal for a better Official Information Act, outlining the changes they'd like to see made. the key ones:

  • Shifting oversight from the Ombudsman to a specialist Open Government Commission;
  • Extending the Act to cover Parliament, state-controlled companies, the IPCA, the Ombudsman, and various other bodies currently excluded, as well as fully covering government contractors;
  • Introducing daily fines for delays, and criminal penalties for deliberate obstruction;
  • Firewalling Ministers from agency requests to prevent political interference;
  • Requiring proactive publication and accessible formats
These are all good proposals, and if the government won't commit to updating the Act, they can be implemented piecemeal. Hopefully the NZCCL will be looking for backbenchers to implement some of these reforms as members' bills.

As for why the NZCCL is interested in this, its because oversight and accountability are key to democracy, and key to protecting people's rights. The government's foot-dragging on transparency is a human rights issue, and one it needs to act on.