Friday, May 20, 2022

Not very proactive II

A couple of weeks ago, Newsroom reported that the government was failing to meet its proactive release obligations, with Ministers releasing less than a quarter of cabinet papers and in many cases failing to keep records. But Chris Hipkins was already on the case, and in a recent cabinet paper on The next steps in the public release of official information (the same one referred to here), he secured Cabinet agreement to finally establish a monitoring mechanism:

Cabinet also agreed that a reporting regime for the policy be put in place, as it is important that we have a view of the levels of compliance with the policy across agencies and portfolios. The agencies consulted during the 2019 review preferred central collection of this data by the Commission rather than individual reporting. To give effect to Cabinet’s previous agreement to a reporting regime, I propose that the Commission gather information on the number of Cabinet papers departments have published on behalf of their ministers (i.e. by portfolio) at six-monthly intervals, alongside the existing OIA statistics collection. The information collected by the Commission will cover, by portfolio:

14.1 The number of Cabinet papers which have been approved for release by the relevant portfolio Minister; and

14.2 The number of Cabinet papers released

The problem? It doesn't collect the number of papers taken to Cabinet. And without that, we can have no idea whether the government is meeting its commitment or not.

These statistics seem purposefully designed to obscure, rather than illuminate. The aim is to allow the government to say "we released X cabinet papers! look how transparent we are", while hiding the number of papers not released. And if the Minister had consulted anyone outside TKM/PSC about the issue, maybe he would have realised that.