17 Oct 2014

PM's admission concerns Ombudsman

11:41 am on 17 October 2014

Prime Minister John Key's admission the Government sometimes delays Official Information Act requests if it is in its interest to do so has concerned Chief ombudsman Dame Beverly Wakem.

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

Prime Minister John Key announces his third-term Cabinet.

Prime Minister John Key announces his third-term Cabinet. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Dame Beverly said she was concerned by Mr Key's comments yesterday that it delayed releasing information, if it was in its best interests.

However, she wanted to know more about the context in which he made the remarks.

She said in her experience, there were seldom malevolent delays in releasing information.

"When you're in opposition, you love the OIA and when you're in government, you hate it.

"Nothing's going to change that.

"The Ombudsman will be challenged from time to time but where we find unreasonable delay, we come down like a tonne of bricks."

Meanwhile, the Ombudsman has received more than 1200 complaints in the past year about the way requests under the Official Information Act are handled.

The office this week released its annual report for the 2013/14 financial year, which showed the number of complaints to the Ombudsman was the third-highest ever.

In a third of those cases, the department or minister ended up changing their decision or rectifying an omission.

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