While the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union commends the Office of the Ombudsman for carrying out a review of the Official Information Act in practice, the Union is disappointed to find that it is largely conciliatory and not critical.
“Despite acknowledging the frustrations and complaints of journalists and private citizens regarding the handling of OIA requests, a preliminary reading of Ready or Not Thematic report of the Chief Ombudsman September 2022 finds the document quite toothless,” says Jordan Williams, executive director of the Taxpayers Union.
The Ombudsman refers to:
“the nefarious perception that has developed around the OIA being used as a tool to obfuscate and undermine transparency.”
“It is fair to point to Covid-19 as a time of unprecedented interest in government decisions, but perceptions of obfuscation cannot simply be attributed to this. Perceptions have not come out of the ground and public service agencies need to reflect on why journalists and the public view them with heightened distrust.”
“The Ombudsman is right to point out that any ‘warning’ the agencies give ministers to ensure there are ‘no surprises’ should not delay the progress of the OIA’s response. Alarmingly, agencies were giving ministers up to five days ahead of news releases.
“It is important for agencies to heed the Ombudsman’s advice, particularly with respect to comments on the need for ECs to demonstrate strong leadership to promote an open and pro-OIA culture.”
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