Monday, August 12, 2019

Fix the OIA

Back in March, the Ministry of Justice conducted a public consultation exercise on whether to hold a review of the Official Information Act. 285 people submitted on it. Now, Stuff has trawled through those submissions, and the case for reform is strong:

The Justice Ministry asked Kiwis what they thought was wrong with the OIA, to help them decide if the act needs an overhaul. The 290 submissions reveal what appears to be a broken process.

Those who use the act to seek information highlight delays, excessive deletions, overuse of vague withholding grounds, political interference and an ombudsman appeal process made ineffective by sometimes years-long waits.

On the other side, officials who respond to OIA questions say requests are unwieldy and unfocused and they need more reasons to withhold information, not fewer.

The only common ground seems to be support for more information to be proactively released, the idea of an independent agency such as an Information Commission to help with training and prevent political interference and penalties for failing to comply.

So will the government act? So far, they've been dragging their feet. A decision is due "by September", so I guess we'll know whether they're lying to us in the next three weeks.