The free flow of information is one of the foundation stones of democracy, that’s why we have an Official Information Act.
But some public servants are playing games with OIA requests.
The Office of the Ombudsmen is concerned some parts of the public service have been deliberately delaying responses to Official Information requests.
In the office’s Annual Report to Parliament, Chief Ombudsmen Beverley Wakem says the practice is unacceptable and subverts the purpose of the legislation.
Beverley Wakem says the Office has observed an increasing tendency by a few government departments and Ministerial offices to ignore the provisions of the Official Information Act over the timing of responses to requesters.
“While in some cases this was clearly a misunderstanding of their obligations, there is also a regrettable tendency to game the system and delay responses until the complainants’ interest in the matter had passed,” she says.
Ignorance is no excuse and it appears that some of the delays are a deliberate attempt to hide information.
New Zealand has a proud record of being relatively free of corruption. This sort of game playing by the previous administration and their staff threatens that so I hope John Key makes it clear to his cabinet that their obligation is to ensure they and staff in ministries and departments make information freely available unless there is a very, very good reason for not doing so.
Kiwblog suggests that departments and offices which have been playing games be named and shamed.
Roarprawn gives an example of an answer to an OIA request being edited.
goNZofreakpower links this to the ACC blowout and lists the major offenders.