40 years of the OIA in New Zealand
The Official Information Act (OIA) came into force 40 years ago on 1 July 1983.
Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier says transparency and information access rights remain as important today as in 1983 when the OIA came into effect.
“The key purpose of the Official Information Act, both at a broad constitutional level, and at an operational level is to make information increasingly available unless there is good reason to withhold it.”
“My role is to independently review complaints from people about decisions made by agencies about their requests for information and to encourage better practice.”
Last year, Mr Boshier published a report about his self-initiated investigation into the OIA practices of 12 core agencies.
The Ready or not? OIA compliance and practice investigations was a follow-up investigation to the Not a Game of Hide and Seek re port published in December 2015.
“Overall, Ready or Not found the core public service was increasingly open and transparent, but chief executives and senior leaders needed to be sure that their agencies have the resources and systems in place to handle their OIA workloads.”
He recommended improvements to the way agencies were responding to journalists and for better staff training and record keeping.
To mark the 40th anniversary of the OIA coming into force, Mr Boshier is announcing a new initiative.
“I want to help agencies to understand and improve their practice so today I am publishing a new Official Information self-assessment tool on my website.
“This allows agencies to respond to a series of questions about how they are tracking.”
Mr Boshier says the tool is based on the requirements of the OIA and good administrative practice. The tool provides key indicators for agencies such as creating policies and guidance material and effective training and performance monitoring.
“The key indicators also highlight the importance of good information management systems and record keeping.”
Mr Boshier says the assessment will help agencies obtain a greater understanding of their capacity, capability and maturity.
“I encourage all agencies, no matter their size, to use this tool. I believe agencies will not only benefit from improving their day to day official information practices, but will also signal their desire to promote accountability and transparency.”
Mr Boshier is recommending senior leaders to encourage its use.
“It will show their commitment to the stewardship of the OIA system. It will also show their desire to continually improve the agency’s OIA compliance and practice.”