OIA report must signal new era of accountability

The Ombudsman’s finding that Ministers’ offices interfered in their departments’ Official Information Act (OIA) releases must signal the end of the Government’s abuse of the OIA, and a new era of public accountability, the Green Party says.

The Ombudsman’s office today released its long-awaited report into OIA practices adopted by central government agencies for the purpose of compliance with the Official Information Act 1982. The report found several Ministers’ offices interfered in the release of official information, and made wide-ranging recommendations for improving public access to information.

“The Prime Minster has previously admitted abusing the Official Information Act for his own political ends, and he must now guarantee that the days of political interference in the release of official information are over,” Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei said.

Earlier this year John Key said ministers sometimes waited 20 days before replying to an OIA because, in the end, Government might take the view that's in our best interest to do that’. Under the Act, ministries and ministers are supposed to reply as soon as possible.

“The finding that several ministers’ offices interfered in the release of official information confirms long-held suspicions by journalists and opposition parties,” Mrs Turei said.

“The National Government has an arrogant disregard for the public’s right to know, and of the important job of journalists and opposition politicians to question it on the way it runs the country.

“Minsters have treated the OIA as an excuse not to release information, rather than using the Act as the guide for the release of public information as it is intended.

“Today’s report highlights a number of ways that the Government and its Ministries can improve compliance with the Official Information Act, and the New Zealand public deserves an assurance the recommendations will be adopted,” Mrs Turei said.

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