Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Looking into it II

The Ombudsman has officially confirmed that they will be investigating Callaghan Innovation's OIA practices. Good. This agency seems to have a problem of political handling of requests, culminating in the wrongful release of the personal information and contact details of requestors they had decided were "enemies". That's absolutely something which needs to be investigated and corrected.

Unfortunately, the Ombudsman has also continued his attacks on requestors:

"I don’t have any formal powers to investigate the conduct of requestors. However, I feel strongly that both requestors and agencies need to follow the spirit as well as the letter of the law."

"The use of fictitious names by requestors isn’t unlawful but I believe they need to be up front about who they are unless they have good reason to keep their identities secret."

He can believe it all he likes. But in seeking to impose an extra-legal requirement on requestors, he is undermining the very Act he is supposed to protect. As for "good reason", there is ample evidence from across the public sector of requestors being treated differently based on agencies' perception of political risk, and it is well-documented in Stephen Price's 2005 study of the Act. Throw in Callaghan's wrongful release of personal information, and there seems to be good reason for every requester to use false names and throwaway identities, just to protect their privacy from vengeful rogue agencies.