Chief Ombudsman's OIA Self-Assessment tool
The Chief Ombudsman gives effect to a number of key democratic and human rights measures aimed at safeguarding the rights of individuals and promoting government accountability and transparency.
One of the main functions is to monitor general compliance and good practice by public sector agencies in managing and responding to official information requests.
Official information legislation is a cornerstone of New Zealand’s democracy. Its effectiveness is one of the reasons why New Zealand is consistently rated one of the most transparent countries in the world.
Maintaining this requires constant vigilance and a desire for all involved in working with the OIA to continually strive for excellence.
Making sure information is increasingly available through both proactive release and in response to requests will lead to greater transparency and accountability within the public sector.
Without access to accurate and timely information about the work of the government, the public cannot participate in government processes in a meaningful way.
This is why the Chief Ombudsman's work in this area is so important.
As stewards of the OIA it is important that agencies strive for excellence in their OIA practice. The Chief Ombudsman's expectation is that senior leaders have clear oversight of their agency’s OIA compliance and practices, just as they would any other aspect of the agency’s core business.
Using the OIA self-assessment tool
This self-assessment tool is one of a number of initiatives from the Chief Ombudsman's office providing support and assistance to lift public sector capability in order to improve the administration, decision-making and compliance with official information legislation.
Note: The tool is created in Excel for maximum ease of use
Achieving the purposes of the OIA largely depends on the attitudes and actions of agency leaders. Excellent official information practice goes beyond simply complying with timeliness obligations. It is also about making connections with the broader purposes of the OIA and communicating this to staff and the public.
The Chief Ombudsman encourages all agencies subject to official information legislation, no matter their size, to use this tool. In doing so, agencies will realise not only the operational benefit of improving official information practices, but also the reputational benefit of signalling a desire to promote openness and transparency.
The benefits of using the OIA self-assessment tool:
- Providing a snapshot of an agency’s OIA compliance and practice at a point in time;
- identifying areas for improvement;
- identifying where an agency is performing well;
- tracking agency trends over time; and
- collecting valuable data to incorporate into agency strategies, improvement plans and business cases for investment.
This tool can facilitate a greater understanding of the agency’s capacity, capability and maturity in key areas of OIA compliance.
Analysis of this information through the use of the suggested Action Plan Template should also be used to inform an agency’s strategic framework to promote an open and transparent official information culture.
Prioritising completion of the self-assessment is one way senior leaders can demonstrate commitment to the concepts of openness and transparency bringing to life their commitment to stewardship of the OIA system. It also shows there is a desire to continually improve the agency’s OIA compliance and practice.
Also included is a template of a possible improvement plan to address any areas for improvement.
What's the OIA self-assessment tool
The OIA self-assessment tool is primarily based on the requirements of Official Information legislation and key indicators that support best practice such as policies and guidance material and effective performance monitoring.
The indicators also reference the importance of good information management systems and record keeping. The tool can be used by any agency that is subject to the OIA
There are five key dimensions that have an impact on official information good practice within agencies: The tool is structured into 5 modules comprising:
- Leadership and culture
- Organisation structure, staffing and capability
- Internal policies, procedures and resources
- Current practices
- Performance monitoring and learning
How do agencies use the tool
There are four distinct steps
- Getting started – planning for self-assessment
- Gathering and recording evidence
- Assessing performance against the indicators using the tool
- Action planning, delivery and monitoring improvement.
Each module includes a series of statements which describe the elements of good practice expected. There is also guidance about the sources of evidence that can help you assess your agency’s performance against the relevant indicator.
Getting started – planning for self-assessment
The self-assessment tool works best when it is part of an agency’s wider approach to continuous improvement. There are a number of approaches that can be used by an agency to complete the self assessment:
- Informal self-assessment approach
This approach could include conversations with key staff and management, and collection of evidence as identified during the process. This approach could suit a small agency.
- A ‘workshop’ approach
This approach includes collection of information with key staff and Senior Leaders to answer the questions through a series of workshops.
- Structured project approach
A project management approach ensures the lines of communication, responsibility and accountability are clear from the outset.
Regardless of which approach your agency decides to adopt, the following principles are important:
- Does everyone involved know what is expected of them and when?
- Have you allowed enough time for evidence-gathering and evaluation?
- Who will receive the final report, when and what approval is required of them?
- What’s next? Consider a sponsor, with regular reporting against the Action Plan.