Thursday, July 15, 2021

Proactive release: What is the government afraid of?

Last month, Newsroom reported on the government's slow progress on reviewing its proactive release policy. The story quoted Public Service Minister Chris Hipkins as saying that there had been "ongoing reviews" about the effectiveness of proactive releases. Naturally, I asked for these reviews using the OIA. Naturally, I got dicked around, and had to complain to the Ombudsman to get a response. And naturally, it turns out he was big-noting. Those "reviews" turn out to be "people talked about it at an OIA forum a few times", plus a partially redacted piece from a daily briefing last December. Hipkins does note that

The review I described have been interim assessments of the implementation of the policy, based on the feedback received from agencies and the baseline metrics available.
But despite explicitly asking for such material, these weirdly don't seem to have been included. Though possibly he was referring to real work done back in late 2019 and early 2020, which has of course been withheld entirely. The government espouses transparency, but when it comes to actually practicising it, its back to control-freakery and secrecy as usual.

Which is not just disappointing, but downright weird. I mean, what are they afraid of here? What's the threat to orderly and effective decision-making? That people might agree with them? That we might nod and say "yes, this is very good work, and it is leading to positive change"? That we might, in short, encourage them?

Hipkins' response mentions the prospect of a single searchable platform for proactive releases. Obviously, that's the sort of thing which will take time and public consultation to develop properly, but it would be great to see. It would just be nice if they were more open about their plans here, rather than clinging reflexively to bad old habits.