Monday, February 17, 2020

An unreasonable charging regime

The Marlborough District Council, tired of public scrutiny, wants to increase the amount it charges for LGOIMA requests:

The cost of requesting official information from Marlborough's government agency could almost double after a jump in "fishing expeditions".

Charges could be raised from $60 to $100 an hour for information supplied by the Marlborough District Council, and from $60 to $100 for "assurance" deposits on bigger jobs, to "avoid [a] waste of resources".

The issue was raised at a planning, finance and community meeting last week.

The problem: these proposed charges are higher than the official OIA charging guidelines. While these strictly do not apply to local government, the Ombudsman has repeatedly found that they are reasonable charges for local government to use, and that
the application of an internal charging policy that is inconsistent with the Charging Guidelines, for example, by charging higher rates for staff time or photocopying, risks an Ombudsman’s finding on review that the charge in question was unreasonable.

So, if Marlborough District Council, or any other body, attempts to charge you for a request and the charges are not according to the guidelines, complain immediately to the Ombudsman. This will cost them a lot more time, and they will soon learn that it is cheaper to not try charging.