20 May 2015

OIA needs to be taken more seriously

6:20 pm on 20 May 2015

The Prime Minister is defending his Government's handling of official information requests in the face of criticism from the Chief Ombudsman.

John Key during caucas run 5/5/15

Prime Minister John Key speaking to reporters at Parliament (file) Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Chief Ombudsman Beverley Wakem is part way through a major review of the OIA and how requests for information are treated by public servants.

She said the Official Information Act (OIA) needed to be taken more seriously - including by the Prime Minister.

Dame Beverley said the attitude and leadership of government organisations had an impact on the way OIA requests were handled.

Dame Beverley said the Prime Minister himself endorsed the misuse of the act when he admitted the Government sometimes delayed releasing official information right up to the deadline.

"I mean, for a prime minister to say that, and openly really admitting to breaking the law without consideration - and I'm sure the impact of what he said and how he said it might not have occurred to him at the time, but I'm sure he's had leisure to think about - it's certainly an issue that I'll be taking up. I mean, that is about leadership."

But a spokesperson for the Prime Minister said John Key respected the law.

She said the Prime Minister's office, which handled OIA requests, followed the correct process as set out in law.

NZ First says Government uses OIA process 'politically'

Leader of New Zealand First Winston Peters is accusing the Government of using the Official Information Act politically.

Mr Peters said following the OIA process correctly was part of sound democratic Government.

"Remember it was the National Party way back under Jim McLay between 1975 and 78, that said if there's no good reason not to disclose, then you should disclose. That was National back then, look at them now."

Under the law, government agencies must release official information within 20 working days of a request or justify why there is a delay.