Thursday 21 December 2017

Fix the Official Information Act

My colleague Sam Warburton is clever. When the Ministry of Transport stonewalled on an Official Information Act request, he made another Official Information Act request for all of the documentation around the prior Official Information Act request. 

Forty-two Ministry staff were involved in processing the request. Here's Sam.
At no point in all of this did any staff member refer to the Ombudsman’s guidelines, or even the Ministry’s own internal guidelines. (De Montalk can be perhaps excused because of how obvious it was that all the information should have been released.)

Similarly, there’s zero discussion of the public interest in releasing the information. If not for the release of the information, the ministry might still be saying the road toll’s trending down.

At least 50 people were involved in this request, 42 of those ministry staff.

Despite my request for details of any verbal conversations or thoughts staff had particularly about the treatment of the OIA request, and despite there being “lots of drama on this OIA”, not a single staff member raised a concern about the redactions or misuse of the OIA. Not a single discussion or thought.

Either this is true and at least a third of the Ministry of Transport are grossly unaware of the law, or information about concerns has been accidentally unreleased or purposefully hidden.

There’s a lot that’s rotten here, and sadly it’s not much different from what other researchers and journalists experience daily. The New Zealand Initiative looks forward to joining with other researchers and journalists in the Coalition to lift OIA performance by our agencies.

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