Monday, December 12, 2022

Another useful OIA decision

Back in June I asked Ministry of Health for information about long covid. At the time, I was challenging extensions, and Ministry of Health knew it, so they tried a new tactic: on the due date, they sent me this:

Pursuant to section 15(1)(a) of the Act, the Ministry is writing to advise you that a decision has been made on your request; however, it will take us some time to prepare the information for release. As it stands, some information will be withheld under the following section 9(2)(a) of the Act. We will send you the information by 11 August 2022.
Which smelled a lot like a 20 working day extension by another name, so I complained to the Ombudsman. Today, they issued their final opinion on the question. The short version: Ministry of Health hadn't actually made a decision, and even if they had, the delay before actually releasing the documents would have been unreasonable. There's some useful stuff in there about what actually constitutes a "decision": they need to actually decide what will be released and what will be withheld, and the specific grounds for the latter, as well as complete any consultation and review involved (the discussion there makes it clear that Ministry of Health's claim to have made a decision was an outright lie, and it was just a shameless grab for more time). There's also useful guidance on exactly when a delay between decision and release will be reasonable - basicly, when its huge. And 6 documents totalling 20 pages doesn't remotely qualify.

Ministry of Health has been ordered to apologise, and I guess I can add that to my collection. But more importantly: another dodgy tactic has been squelched at the outset, before it could become established. And that's ultimately why I challenge: because otherwise, the government would get away with shit like this, and the system wouldn't even pretend to work.

(As for the actual information, the documents they released are here, and my commentary is here).