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Ombudsman: Government secrecy “highly dangerous”

Written By: - Date published: 7:17 am, September 28th, 2012 - 31 comments
Categories: accountability, democracy under attack, national - Tags: , ,

Chief Ombudsman Dame Beverley Wakem has done us all a favour with her comments government privacy:

Top-level alarm over secrecy trend

Attempts to keep information confidential highly dangerous, Chief Ombudsman says.

The Ombudsman’s Office has warned of “highly dangerous” moves by the Government to keep information secret by drafting laws to avoid the Official Information Act.

Chief Ombudsman Dame Beverley Wakem says she is concerned at the increasing number of officials in government agencies who fail to understand the constitutional importance of the legislation.

She pointed to several “reprehensible” attempts in the past year by officials to disallow Official Information Act requests for drafts of legislation, in particular on partial state asset sales, charter schools and changes to mining permits.

“I think it’s the beginning of something that’s highly dangerous,” she told the Herald.

“If this goes on, we will be appearing much more regularly at select committees when these things appear in the form of a bill, and making our views heard loud and clear.” …

The timing really couldn’t be worse for the Nats. Key’s abundant failure to competently manage even a core government agency, the GCSB, is an international scandal. OIA requests were the only way we found out many of the details of the John Banks scandal.

These are the kinds of issue that the government at all levels would much rather keep from mere members of the public. We can’t let them get away with reducing our access to the truth. Thanks to the Ombudsman for this timely reminder.

31 comments on “Ombudsman: Government secrecy “highly dangerous””

  1. While having to work in a way that’s complaint with the OIA act can be a bit of a hassle from time to time, it’s well worth the results. If National actually believed in their philosophies, they wouldn’t be afraid of the OIA.

  2. BLiP 2

    .

    The actual report makes better reading the picture clearer than the New Zealand Fox News Herald rewrite of the Ombudsman’s press release.

    Disgusting behaviour on the part of both the government agencies involved and National Ltd™ for its deliberate underfunding of so important a function of state. Why am I not surprised? Oh, yeah, that’s right: of all the iniatives to stem from John Key’s “Jobs Summit” the only one which his government has taken to heart is the cry from business and others for less emphasis on regulation and monitoring.

  3. ianmac 3

    A few weeks ago wasn’t it the Ombudsman’s call for increased funding because the funding cuts have meant that the case load was getting further and further delayed?

  4. Raymond A Francis 4

    Serious question
    Can anybody remember some good work done by our spooks?
    All I know are a bunch of stuff ups going back to WWII, I don’t think this should be politicalised as quite a few of those were while Labour were running things
    I don’t feel that matters as I think we can guess which side of the political line these people occupy
    Have they done anything worthwhile that would encourage us to keep them on

    • I helped them take out the Iranians, only thing I can remember that is worthy

      I had too help, the Muslim community didn’t trust “Spies” full stop back then.

    • insider 4.2

      The good stuff is so good that you’ll never get to know about it….

      Seriously though, you are always going to hear about the cock ups more because they are almost by definition going to be more public, while the good public stuff may often be fronted by the Police due to their power to arrest and prosecute. there were occassional expulsions of Soviet dipolomats in the cold war. Maybe the fact we are not subject to terrorism is a sign of success?

  5. captain hook 5

    of course this government is shrouded in secrecy.
    thye are afraid that their peculation and pelf will be exposed and they are ashamed of the way they have stolen public assets off the people.

  6. There is a hole in the Law about disclosure.

    The problem is those “Undercover” peoples’ lives are at risk, and the release of information could endanger those lives critically.

    They may be incompetent but they don’t deserve a bullet for it.

    It highlights a serious floor in the way the Entire Operation is run.

    The Captains are stupid , ignorant and not qualified to have those lives under their command.

    They should be Generals, and that means an IQ over the 80 that they posses.

  7. Jokerman 7

    the nationalities are reversed; Kim is making out like “Hogan” while Key’s bumbling like “Klink”
    (with shady Major Hochstedder in the office background)

  8. alwyn 8

    Wasn’t it the Ombudsman who told schools that they could not ignore OIA requests for their National Standards figures?
    At the time I seem to remember that many of the contributors to blogs like The Standard supported the schools and said the material should not be released.
    Oh well, I guess it is always the same. What embarasses my friends must be hidden. What embarasses my opponents must be released.

    • BLiP 8.1

      .

      DOX PLOX

      • alwyn 8.1.1

        If your remark is really meant to be a respose to mine can you please explain it?
        What the hell is DOX PLOX?

        • McFlock 8.1.1.1

          This commenter believes that the bisyllabic expression in question is a humble request that you provide some reference or pointer to documentary evidence that will serve to identify and clarify the particular instance of bureaucratic procedural direction to which you allude.

  9. Draco T Bastard 9

    Everything that the government does, except for some very rare exceptions, needs to be open to public scrutiny. Hiding what the government is doing is, IMO, just another step towards the dictatorship that this government is instituting.

  10. Anne 10

    Very good post on Red Alert by Phil Goff.

    http://blog.labour.org.nz/

    “Fifty years on, role of Ombudsman under threat”.

    • mike 10.1

      Yes good post, he points the finger at Murray McCully as serial OIA request stonewaller, straining the Office of Ombudsman’s conspicuously under-funded budget. There needs to be some consequences for failing to meet OIA deadlines.

      “Dame Beverley is a formidable woman, determinedly independent and with an impressive track record.

      Most recently, she warned of “highly dangerous” moves by the Government to keep information secret by drafting laws to avoid the Official Information Act (OIA).

      She highlighted “reprehensible” attempts to remove from the Act state assets where there are partial share sales, charter schools and change to mining permits.”

      As DTB said government secrecy should be reserved for the serious national security spy stuff, and a precious few other exceptional circumstances. That NACT wants to items relating to exempt partial share sales, charter schools and change to mining permits tells you all you need to know about their ‘commitment to transparency’.

      This is public business, it’s our right to know what the government is doing and how. Nothing to hide? Bullshit.

      When has anyone heard of the Office of Ombudsman making news by calling the actions of the government “reprehensible”? Wake up kiwiland.

  11. Anne 11

    When has anyone heard of the Office of Ombudsman making news by calling the actions of the government “reprehensible”?

    The first time in 50 years? This NACT govt. is starting to make the Muldoon govt. of 1975/84 look a whole lot better than we appreciated at the time – and that’s really saying something!

  12. xtasy 12

    Having had dealings with Beverly Wakem, I feel a bit confused. The way the Office of Ombudsmen works already leaves something to desire. So if even she gets crossed with changes to the Official Information Act (has anybody taken note of what goes on???), how bloody serious and worrying must this be?

    Sadly the process at Select Committee and so is not well reported, as the mainstream media focuses on crime, rape, school issues, Dotcom and sensationalistic or even trivial stuff. We get NO reporting on details that are important to ALL of us. There is NO investigative journalism, most moder journos are more pre-occupied with career choices, getting the best job for the largest market player (all “privately run”), better pay, and that necessitates greasing up, grooming, polished fingernails, make-up on the face, photo ops and short, cheap comments to get attention.

    This is disgusting, and sadly it is DOMINANT, so even the public media follow this trend.

    NZ is poor for good journalism, it is a rather back stop kind of media environment, where the “circus” is more important than real, factual reporting.

    I am afraid that Beverley Wakem’s call goes under. Indeed I have not heard it mentioned anywhere, but here.

    The NZ dictatorship is working, I am afraid. The elite controlling funds set the agenda, and except of a few odd examples, it works and most are kept dumb, ignorant, brain-washed, exposed to corrupt practices, and thus they are all following the agenda of divide and rule, “me first”, shit on your workmate and neighbour, as that gets me ahead.

    Sorry to see and hear all this. I have NO faith in the system in NZ.

    • blue leopard 12.1

      Thats weird, your comment wasn’t there when I posted mine. Had it have been I probably woulda just “+1ed” yours!

      Media is screwed in NZ
      Think I’ll make a formal complaint over this one.
      Furious

      • xtasy 12.1.1

        Was being “monitored”, get the message? I appreciate though that sometimes the Standard collective do want to do a few checks, to avoid things like slander, insult, wrong information and whatever else. So at least here we can still write and share what we think. Try that with the NZ Herald or other outfits!

  13. blue leopard 13

    O.k WHAT is going on with our media?

    I watched TV One news tonight to see in what way they would cover this topic considering it seemed such an important thing for us all to know and there wasn’t a jot on it. Not a mention.

    Murder first up. Schools second, 3rd Dotcom …the list goes on. No disrespect intended for the other stories covered, yet if we have a questionable government that is trying to hide things from its citizens that it shouldn’t and the Ombudsman feels the need to speak out about it. Isn’t this the most important story of the day?

    Murders, Organization of Schools, Criminal cases, Roads that need repairing, Baby Milk Powder shortages…aren’t we more likely to experience increasing problems over these matters and others if our very Government isn’t paying due respect for the systems and regulations we have in order to function smoothly and protect us?

    If the media don’t report this sad fact then where will the pressure come in order to ensure this Government is called to account?

    • xtasy 13.1

      The mainstream media won’t!

      Mediaworks is in the pocket of Joyce.

      Print media are owned by corporates, and journos are told to tow the line: Commercial interest and publicity gaining top stories that involve lots of “emotion” and stir ups come first.

      Listen to the paymaster, dear journo, or else.

      TVNZ has a National Party member sit on the board.

      Campbell live is only allowed sob stories about poor school kids, the odd individual victim of social injustice, but NOTHING of substance.

      I am informed of people writing to his team about real critical stuff re welfare and MSD’s and WINZ’s appalling treatment of clients, they had NO interest, unless the person would “front up” and risk their breadline cut off by WINZ!

      So they are ALL hollow shit, not worth the respect the majority idiot public give them. Sadly Kiwi kids grow up with all this crap, so they think , this is “normal” (never learning about real reporting, more independent media, as in some countries overseas)..

      My resume is again: NZ is a DICTATORSHIP with highly sophisticated means of manipulation, misinformation, distraction and so forth, that uphold it as it is and supposed to be.

      Key knows all this, and he takes full advantage of it. Shearer is another one, trying to play the media for his purpose, but he is poor doing so. The Office of Ombudsmen is to me a farce, really, like H+D Commissioner and other offices, just to be a “bumb” to stop people taking matters to the courts.

    • Draco T Bastard 13.2

      The MSM give no indication that they will ever hold this government to account.

      • blue leopard 13.2.1

        The MSM don’t have to hold the government to account.

        They simply have to report what is going on, what experts are saying etc. NoT HaRd. People are the ones who apply pressure on the government in response to any dodgy stories-like this one-they hear.

        Leave us in the dark; that is all they do.

        • karol 13.2.1.1

          The evening news is infotainment. They prefer stories that are dramatic, tragedies, weepies, emotional and fairly simple to present….. ones that fit into the format for the most popular forms of drama and entertainment.

          Anything that includes an odd 3 syllable word, some background explanation, and some thought about its implications for democracy, just doesn’t cut it with the infotainment, factional dramedy department that runs the evening news.

  14. mike 14

    I think Winston should have a cup of tea with Beverly Wakem at a cafe, invite the media, leave a black bag on the table, then be all faux surprised to find a microphone in it. (But happily releasing the conversation to the media.)

    Delicious publicity stunt for Winston, just his style I reckon, and draws attention to the issue. No charge for that one Winnie!

    But yeah NZ MSM is a self-impressed joke. Competing he said, she said, three second sound bites on complex issues wraped up shallow blinkered bias. PG13 news dished out to correspondingly dumbed down adults 7 days a week.

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