Thursday, November 18, 2021

Another OIA horror-story

NewsHub reports on another OIA horror story, a simple request for information on the supply and distribution of PPE which required the intervention of the Ombudsman to get a response. And reading the article, it seems to be the usual story of an overly-secretive agency abusing the process to hide information it does not want revealed (the supply of PPE was later subject to a damning Auditor-General's report, which might have been avoided if transparency and the resulting embarrassment and accountability had caused the problems to be corrected earlier). And key to this abuse is our old friend, extensions:

The final determination of the Chief Ombudsman, Peter Boshier, who investigated Newshub's complaint, also appears to point to manipulation of the process.

When the Ministry initially said it needed to extend the timeframe to respond, Boshier found the Ministry had already drafted its response.

"There was not a substantial amount of information to be searched through or collated. Further, the only 'consultations' that have been identified to me are internal ones," he said.

Boshier found workload pressures at the Ministry were "not a reason" to drag out the OIA process which was determined to be "unreasonable".

Which both echoes the findings about the SIS/GCSB (suggesting a pervasive problem across government), and is also a reminder of why you should always complain about extensions. Because clearly agencies cannot be relied upon to apply the law in good faith, making constant scrutiny by the Ombudsman necessary.

The article cites the Chief Ombudsman has having serious concerns about whether the OIA is being complied with. If that's the case, maybe he should stop pissing about with early resolution and negotiated discontinuances (which is what happened here), and start issuing binding final opinions and bring them to the direct attention of Parliament. Because its clear that the current system of belated slaps on the wrist with a wet bus ticket is completely ineffective.