16 Dec 2014

Wide-ranging review of Official Information Act

7:14 pm on 16 December 2014

The Chief Ombudsman has launched a major review of the Official Information Act as it relates to the public sector.

beehive and parliament building

Photo: PHOTO NZ

Twelve government agencies had been selected for formal review, while a further 63 and all 27 ministers' offices were being asked to complete a survey covering all aspects of their Official Information Act practice.

The review would look at the number of OIA requests, the number of complaints made to the Ombudsman when information is not given, and the length of time it takes to get a response from a request.

It would also seek input from public servants, opposition parties, journalists and academic commentators.

The Chief Ombudsman, Dame Beverley Wakem, said the public needed assurance that both the letter and the spirit of the law were being observed by the custodians of public information.

Dame Beverley said in recent months, there had been allegations in the media that OIA processes have been circumvented for a variety of reasons, and that had the potential to erode public confidence in the OIA throughout the core public sector.

"The classic one for me always is the one where you ring up and you're told, 'Well, if you don't use the words Official Information Act, I can give you the information now. But if you use the Official Information Act wording, I have to go through five layers of approval to get this approved for release'. Well, that's absolutely barmy."

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