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Hager and Price on OIA 30 years on

Written By: - Date published: 2:25 pm, November 23rd, 2012 - 4 comments
Categories: uncategorized - Tags:

On the 30th anniversary of the Official Information Act, it’s worth pausing to ask: is it fit for service? Was it ever? Will the government pick up on the Law Commission’s recent recommendations? Will these make things better or worse? Author and investigative journalist Nicky Hager and media lawyer Steven Price will discuss these issues. Nicky will talk about how the OIA works and his experiences with it over the years. Steven will outline the Law Commission’s proposals and assess whether they’re likely to produce greater government transparency – or a longer menu of options for holding information back.

: Monday November 26th, 2012,  5:30 PM   through   7:00 P. Where: Connolly Hall, Guildford Terrace, Thorndon, Wellington.
All welcome, session is free. You can register here.

4 comments on “Hager and Price on OIA 30 years on”

  1. Tiger Mountain 1

    Well the thick black marker makers have had a spin off from the OIA I guess.

    Not strictly OIA but the NZ SIS had a brief “open” period for a couple of years and under the 1969 and 1977/8 acts denied some people their files on the basis that their (the agencies) still living snouts could be identified or compromised (it is in the legislation).

    Idiot Savant and certain other regular advocates and OIA users detail their experiences regularly and by their accounts government departments do not like transparency or accountability and try and frustrate it regards time delays and cost implications for OIA requests.

  2. tracey 2

    It seems to work better for the media than others representung tge public, in various ways. its a toothless tiger for my clients.

    • Mary 2.1

      Seems is the operative word, here, Tracey. The truth is that the media will as a matter of course use the Ombudsman more than the average person and persevere through the process despite the office being in complete disarray as a result of it being totally under-resourced. At the moment the utter bedlam within the Office of the Ombudsmen must surely be a major factor contributing to the blase attitude within many of our government departments and ministerial offices. Having said that, the tension between the need for transparency on the one hand and the tendency for decision-makers to hide their incompetence or agenda or what ever else they want to conceal has been with us a long time and it’ll take a fundamental shift in thinking for the situation to even improve, let alone be fixed.

  3. headbanger 3

    It would be useful perhaps if there was some penalty for officials breaching the OIA.

    Over the last few years I have fought again and again to have information released and often encountered systematic and cynical abuse of the OIA system by government staff. If you manage to have a complaint about this upheld by the Ombudsman – for example because of clues in what little was released – there is no penalty. Officials just give you what you asked for originally (eventually) and happily get on with their lives.

    When this information is being withheld on the basis it would be embarrassing for the official to release, or labelled ‘out of scope’ when it clearly is not and takes upwards of a year to finally get it makes the whole process a farce.

    Of course the result has been that the office of the Ombudsman has been buried in work while the government has refused to give Beverley Wakem any additional resources. It now takes at least a year to have a complaint heard – I have one currently lodged under section 23 of the OIA (reasons for a decision) which has taken over 22 months to resolve with no end in sight!

    So no penalty for officials even if they get caught and a direct benefit in burying the Ombudsman’s office in work as it makes it so hard to get a complaint through most people give up.

    Easy to clear up – just make it a sacking offence for staff getting caught illegally withholding information and I think we’d see the OIA working much better almost immediately. Accountability anyone?

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