Ministers are already subject to legal time limits, and to laws limiting their ability to withhold information. They routinely ignore both.
Wow. I have never seen one of those though I knew something like them must exist.
Try OIAing one of yours. It might be interesting.
I know it doesn’t always work, especially with many of the situations described here, but if I just want something uncontroversial then I tend to just ask politely before anything else, and with no specific reference to the OIA.
Which works great for uncontroversial queries from uncontroversial people. But if you are media, or a successful requester, any request you make is seen as controversial regardless of content, so its got to be knives out from the start.
"No Surprises" means that the Minister gets a cover sheet saying you're "politically active" when being "informed" (asked) about your request. It is simply not credible that this does not affect the decision-making process.
Agreeing with I/S on this, and further that all inquiries to a government agency or minister are regarded under the act as OIA inquiries, according to the Ombudsman.
Yes. So under the Take No Shit rule, if you make a polite enquiry and a public servant fobs you off, ask them if that is their final response, because legally they've responded to an OIA request and you can go straight to the Ombudsman. They tend to become cooperative after that, because the one thing worse than an OIA request is an Ombudsman's enquiry.
They weren’t refused. They were all met within the specified timeframe.
Good to know.
I totally get your point that OIAs are an important tool for making governments more transparent. It just wasn’t a lot of fun to be on the receiving end of, as a parent volunteer.
I understand completely. I've handled a privacy act request as a volunteer, and that wasn't a lot of fun (but very, very educational).
Just thinking about it - isn't an OIA meant to be the method of communication of last resort.
No. The OIA is supposed to make government more transparent, by making it easier to get information from them (this may shock people, but pre-OIA, government information was presumed to be secret and it was a crime to disclose it; the OIA repealed the crime and put in place a presumption of openness). Whether people use it as their first or last port of call is entirely up to them.
They were all made by the same person with the same motivation ..
To be fair, the context was that there were a lot of trust problems at the time between the board, the school management and the school community, as the subsequent ERO report identified. But the use of the OIAs in that way was corrosive.
That doesn't make something "vexatious". According to the Ombudsman, a request is only vexatious if it is such that no reasonable person could possibly consider it to be made in good faith. Your subsequent comments make it clear that these requests did not fall into that category, and if they were refused as such, they were refused improperly.
Which gets us back to the central problem: too much interference by Ministers and their hacks in what should be a public service process.
Another reason, and I suspect this doesn't apply to you, is that so many of the requests I have processed over the years were terribly written, and gave those very same people just the reasons they needed to refuse to supply information.
Sure (and you only have to look at the average request to ACC lodged via FYI to see examples). But there's a legal duty to assist, and if a request is unclear, its a public servant's job to pick up the phone or put forehead to keyboard and seek clarification.
It should also be acknowledged that OIAs can also be used in a vexatious way as well. Our school board had experience of this.
Truly vexatious requests can be refused. The barrier is rightly high because those in power tend to see inquiries by citizens or those they are in dispute with as inherently vexatious.