New Zealand Ombudsman Orders Review of Access

18 December 2014

The New Zealand Chief Ombudsman has ordered a review of the practices of government agencies in processing requests under the Official Information Act (OIA).

Dame Beverley Wakem said that 12 central government agencies have been selected for formal review, while a further 63 agencies and all 27 Ministers’ offices are being asked to complete a detailed two-part survey covering all aspects of OIA practice.

The Office of the Ombudsman will also seek broad input from current and former public servants, opposition parties, journalists, academic commentators and other users of the OIA.

“The effective operation of the OIA is crucial to our system of open and democratic government, and this review will scrutinise how things are currently operating and set out a framework for systemic improvement where deficiencies are identified,” she said in the announcement.

She said in an interview that allegations have been made of agencies circumventing the law.

“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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