Thursday, February 15, 2024

An unlawful directive

An interesting question in the Parliamentary written questions feed today, from Jan Tinetti to the Minister of Education:

Has she or her Office directed the Ministry of Education to not release Official Information Act material prior to the full twenty working days, if so, why?
Given that people don't ask such questions unless they already know the answer, I think we can assume that such a directive actually exists, and its just a matter of time before its exposed to full public light.

Such a directive would of course be completely unlawful, violating the clear statute that requests must be responded to "as soon as reasonably practicable". The problem is that public servants don't really have much recourse against even clearly unlawful directives, because shit flows downhill from the Minister. Which is why we need to move away from the current OIA enforcement model of government as a cosy gentlemen's agreement with the Ombudsman there to remind people to be a good chap, and towards one where the law is actually legally enforceable, and there are criminal penalties for deliberately violating it.