Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Reviewing the whitewash

Back in 2015, then Ombudsman Beverley Wakem conducted a review of the OIA, Not a game of hide and seek. The "review" was a whitewash, which found no need for legislative change, and instead criticised the media and requesters - which destroyed Wakem's reputation, and undermined that of the Office of the Ombudsman in general. But it did recommend some minor practice improvements around how agencies internally handled requests. Now, the current Ombudsman is doing a followup investigation into the agencies the report was originally based on, to see if anything has changed:

The Chief Ombudsman is launching a new inquiry into whether central government agencies have addressed any weaknesses identified in a landmark investigation five years ago.

Peter Boshier told Parliament’s Government Administration Committee this morning that ‘now is the right time’ to revisit the 12 representative agencies involved in Not a game of hide and seek, the Ombudsman’s 2015 investigation into Official Information Act compliance and practice.


Published in December 2015, Not a game of hide and seek was initiated by former Chief Ombudsman Dame Beverley Wakem, in response to growing concerns that some agencies or Ministers were ‘gaming’ the OIA. The investigation found that while agencies overall met the required standards, there were definite improvements to be made.

“I really have to find out about what has changed since the original report was published,” Mr Boshier says.

The agencies being surveyed are ACC; Department of Corrections; Ministry of Education; Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Ministry of Health; Ministry of Justice; New Zealand Customs Service; NZDF; New Zealand Transport Agency; Ministry of Social Development; Ministry of Transport; State Services Commission. If you've requested anything from them in the last 12 months, then there's a survey here you can fill out. The Ombudsman will use the results to find out what needs to be investigated further.

The results should be interesting. But what will happen if, as expected, nothing has really changed? More slaps with the wet bus-ticket?