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Time to add parliamentary services to the OIA

Written By: - Date published: 4:00 pm, June 12th, 2011 - 18 comments
Categories: accountability - Tags:

Some bloggers are having a bit of a fit over some minutes that were sent to National MP Aaron Gilmore by accident and that include a note of a discussion of parliamentary services resource.

While that’s a bit of a non-story and Cameron Slater’s “big scoop” will turn out to be a fizzer (as usual), it does raise some issues about parliamentary services spending and public transparency.

You see parliamentary services has not been put on the schedule of the Official Information Act, which means neither the media or the public can find out about any detail about what money is being spent on (or how much), or what information is being passed around.

A parliamentary staffer could, for instance, be employed to research political opponents and pass the information on to party members or party bloggers and, despite such behaviour being unlawful, we’d never be able to find out about it

Similarly we can’t find out how much of each party’s parliamentary budget is spend on things like market research or polling or indeed who they were employing for such work or how much they are being paid.

It’s even feasible that a contractor to a political party could be in receipt of payment far greater than their “official” work, such as polling or speech-writing, would warrant in exchange for them doing work PS would never pay for such as party-political commentary. And we’d never know because we would never be able to find out how much was being spent or for how much return.

We simply wouldn’t stand such a massive lack of accountability in any other government department.

But it gets worse, I’m reliably informed that some ministerial staffers have been conducting parliamentary business by gmail, to further avoid culpability. Chris Hipkins also has concerns about this. It would certainly explain some of the holes in the ministerial communication surrounding the hobbit dispute.

So what’s the answer? Personally I think it’s as simple as putting parliamentary services on the OIA and allowing it to be applied retrospectively.

John Key has already shown increased transparency with ministerial spending, now is the time to shine that light a little further.

I’m sure Cameron and David would agree with me.

18 comments on “Time to add parliamentary services to the OIA”

  1. seeker 1

    Clever post Irish Bill. I am sure Dave and Cam will certainly agree,they are all for revelation.

  2. Dan 2

    This is a good idea; I am just sad that people’s abilities to use their money for whatever they see fit in confidence has been breached, and it’s the revelations from such an outcome that will ultimately be the justification for it.

    The names and donee amounts of private individuals that comply with NZ law and are declared correctly are collateral in all this. Anyone without a vested (commercial/media) interest is going to be used as fodder for a push for transparency, when they aren’t the ones committing any undesirable acts at all. The price of their privacy should be paid by the MPs involved, who should resign and face any applicable criminal charges, regardless of party or offence.

  3. Colonial Viper 3

    The price of their privacy should be paid by the MPs involved, who should resign and face any applicable criminal charges, regardless of party or offence.

    Complete legal nonsense.

    Anyone without a vested (commercial/media) interest is going to be used as fodder for a push for transparency, when they aren’t the ones committing any undesirable acts at all.

    What? The post talks about Parliamentary Services being subject to the OIA.What the hell are you talking about?

    • Dan 3.1

      Sorry, I’m struggling for lack of sleep and energy;

      I’m just concerned about the effects that this whole saga will have. Sure, people will know what goes on in Parliamentary Services, but this scandal may also make people think twice about donating to their parties or causes, which they’re entitled to do without having their names flashed all over the internet.

      I was trying to say that anyone who is found to be rorting anything should be given the heave-ho because in finding what they’ve done, a whole bunch of people who haven’t done anything are about to have their privacy violated. It’s kind of a “but at what cost?” scenario.

  4. You’re late to the party. I have supported Parliamentary Service being open to the OIA for many years. In fact I even pushed the concept at a Labour Party forum.

  5. Yes I agree, open it up, and do it now.

    • Liberty 5.1

      “Yes I agree, open it up, and do it now”

      Whale
      Monday 9am is a very long time to wait.

  6. Colonial Viper 6

    David Farrar, Whale Oil and IrishBill all smiling together on the same blog post. Quick someone take a photo! 😀

  7. thor42 7

    Who was the “bright spark” that decided to leave Parliamentary Services out of the OIA in the first place?
    What the *heck* were they thinking?

    • I think basically the same reason as the judiciary was left out. The OIA is about ensuring executive government is properly held to account.

      • can’t edit for some reason.
        meant to say “was about ensuring”.
        Historically, that’s where it came from.

      • Lanthanide 7.1.2

        I can’t see any reason why a limited amount of detail about parliamentary services can’t be put under the OIA. Like summaries of spending, if not the line items themselves.

  8. PeteG 8

    Similarly we can’t find out how much of each party’s parliamentary budget is spend on things like market research or polling or indeed who they were employing for such work or how much they are being paid.

    There’s a simple solution to that – we should have transparent official public market research and polling. I’m going to set up something like that in an electorate or electorates to prove that it can work and to prove public acceptance, and to try and force it up through the system. I shouldn’t have to do that.

    An official trial was done in 1999 and ditched by politicians who didn’t want to be advised by the public. The public are getting very pissed off with not being listened to.

  9. Jimmie 9

    Hmmm I think PeteG was referring to the referendum held at the election

  10. Adam Gifford 10

    All political donations above a certain low level (say $100) should be published, as in the US (pre Citizens United), with minimal scope for anonymity. National doesn’t want this because it’s got the whole trust thing working for it so well, and Labour fears it will cut a couple of hundred thou off its revenue – which is probably true, given that the Nats WILL punish corproates who try to spend a bob either way.

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