Most people doing these things are smart enough to know that’s possible, and not well trained enough to know exactly how to make sure that there are no traces of the material they want to censor still in the document.
I have noticed that NZTA and MBIE have got a lot better technically at document redaction over the last three years ;-)
(I assume this doesn’t mean run of the mill Companies Office stuff)
Joyce is so petty that nothing would surprise me.
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.
I was told by a source that anything with my name on it was flagged to the minister (Joyce) before they would begin to work on the response.
“No Surprises” means that the Minister gets a cover sheet saying you’re “politically active” when being “informed”
Wow. I have never seen one of those though I knew something like them must exist.
I’m surprised we haven’t yet seen more implementation of the OIA’s S15 provisions, to allow charging for processing requests, as an informal deterrent.
They do. It's just not publicised very often. What tends to happen is they say "it's going to cost you this much", you refer it to the Obmudsman as unreasonable and the Ombudsman tells them not to be idiots and release the material immediately. This has happened to me and others regularly in dealing with NZTA and the former MED.
If they say "it's going to cost this much to photocopy", I say "send me the electronic files, then. I don't need it in hard copy". In 2010, when NZTA was pushing the Kapiti RoNS along, they would find the material in hard copy (even if it meant printing it out first!), photocopy it, redact the photocopy, scan it as an image and send out PDFs of the images. Which meant I'd have to OCR and correct it myself. They did this after they realised that we were getting too much information from the metadata and that blacking out text on paper with a Sharpie didn't mean it couldn't be read later. Ah, those were the days...
I feel that allowing the Ombudsman to invoice agencies for investigations into their OIA handling would go a significant way towards addressing this. On one hand it isolates the Ombudsman’s funding from Parliament, so that it can be funded for its actual workload to uphold the law against shoddy agency interpretations, instead of merely the amount of work the government chooses to restrict it to. It also creates a direct financial incentive for OIA compliance which CEOs will be forced to account for in front of Ministers, Treasury and the public.
I like this idea.
Just thinking about it – isn’t an OIA meant to be the method of communication of last resort.
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.
I think Clark's "no surprises" rule was about letting the minister know information was being released before he/she had to front the media on it. Key's rule is more about "does the minister want this released?"
I'm also reminded of a manager I had earlier who constantly said "perception is reality". Her problem was that she regarded it as a prescription for success ("manage the perception and keep the reality hidden") rather than a warning ("as people perceive you, so will they treat you"), which is what has come back to bite the public service in a big way. People perceive them as evasive and secretive, and so don't trust their public words. That means more OIA requests to try to find out "what's really going on".
Instead of having someone at a ministry spending time and resources trying to answer how many tire punctures ministerial limousines have had over the last ten years, you are given access to the maintenance records with the understanding that you can figure it out yourself from there.
Sometimes, documents without context can be quite misleading. When I was a public servant, I used to get phone calls from journalists who trusted me to give them the straight information. If I said, "I can't talk about that" they respected it, but I always preferred to have correct information in the media than to have "the ministry was evasive and wouldn't answer our questions so here's what we think happened".
My immediate boss was of a similar mind and trusted me not to over-step the bounds, and I always kept him informed and diary-noted the conversations. When he left, his replacement heard me talking on the phone one day and just about had kittens! I could point to all the diary notes as an example of established practice, which saved me from a disciplinary hearing, but I had to officially dry up as a source (most of them had my home number, anyway). I left the public service soon after.
We now use amazing analytical tools.
I would love to know what they are ;-)