Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Really not a priority

Before the election, then-Justice Minister Andrew Little was saying that transparency was a priority and promising to rewrite the OIA. But after the election, the entire project was shoved on the back-burner. Why? Because apparently the Ministry of Justice has too many other, more important things to do:

The promised review of the Official Information Act (OIA) is one of eight projects deferred by an overloaded Ministry of Justice policy team, documents show.

The papers show ministry officials recommended in September 2019 that the government review the law that governs Kiwis’ access to official information.

The officials noted a “problem with how the OIA is perceived as working” and recommended nine areas for review, including considering new enforcement tools and a new oversight role, such as an information commissioner.


Somewhere in that prioritisation process, the OIA review moved from promise to “potential project” and it was not included in the policy work programme for 2021-2023.

Instead, it was listed as one of eight projects “paused or deferred until resources become available”. The other seven affected projects were redacted.

So what's causing this need to prioritise? Typically, the government won't say. But immediately after being elected, the government started talking about a four-year term, a major constitutional change squarely within the purview of the Ministry of Justice. So its hard to escape the conclusion that measures to improve accountability, which have been delayed or deferred for over a decade, are being shunted aside in favour of a measure to reduce it.

Meanwhile, Stuff notes in passing that the documents were released two weeks late, with no reason given for the delay. Which I think tells us everything we need to know about how highly Labour prioritises transparency.