Improving official information practice at the Ministry of Health

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We helped the Ministry of Health to improve its processes for responding to Official Information Act requests. 

© Office of the Ombudsman, 2019.

I’m Debbie Te Awhe, the General Manager for Government Services from the Ministry of Health. Our team, known as the OIA Services Team, deal with all requests for information under the Official Information Act.

So back in December 2017, we received our review from the Ombudsman, which had 13 opportunities for us to improve the way that we work. It was a fast process but it’s actually given us, you know, a really clear direction on what we need to be doing.

If you have a look at where we were 12 months ago we were sitting at the very bottom of the 111 agencies, sitting on 73 percent for our timeliness response, and we are now at 94.5 percent.

So originally about 12 months ago we were running a decentralised model where the information would still come into our team, but we would then give the information out to each directorate and they would be in charge of managing the request until the end. So back in July 2018 we put together a centralised model, where one team of ten people is actually across all the responses. And so they are the experts in OIA responses, and they work with all of the subject matter experts across the Ministry to get all the information together in the right format, with all the right information going out to the response.

The Office of the Ombudsman has been part of our journey all the way through. We can pick up the phone and talk to them at any time. So if we are unsure of what we’re doing or want a little bit of direction or if we just want to bounce something off them they’re at the end of the phone and vice versa.

So one of the opportunities we took was to look at how people could ask us for information easier. So we worked alongside with the Office to create a new page on our website, which actually was really clear around the information that we were needing to respond, in a very simple way, so anyone can access it.

We work for the public and I think it’s important that if we’re open and transparent we continue to build that trust with those people, so the more information we can give to them is the best for all outcomes really.

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