Decision to implement a framework for managing a National Party Advisor’s OIA requests
A National Party Advisor, who at the time was responsible for making requests on behalf of two National Party Members of Parliament, complained to me about the Ministry of Social Development (the Ministry)’s decision to implement a framework to manage his Official Information Act 1982 (OIA) requests.
The framework combined active case management with a threshold of 40 hours per week to manage the complainant’s OIA requests. If the threshold of 40 hours per week was exceeded, the Ministry would consider using the OIA’s mechanisms for managing administratively challenging requests, including extending the timeframe to make and communicate a decision, fixing a charge for the provision of official information, and making official information available to the complainant in a different format (for example, through providing a summary or allowing him to inspect the information).
The complainant sought my opinion on whether the framework was consistent with the OIA, and even if the OIA permits it, whether the framework was reasonable in the circumstances.
The Ministry advised that it implemented the framework because it experienced difficulty managing the complainant’s OIA requests, which were often broad and complex in nature. The Ministry estimated that the equivalent of 1.5 full-time staff were required at any one time to process the complainant’s requests. It was concerned that the situation was inequitable, as it affected the Ministry’s ability to attend to other OIA requests.
I assessed the Ministry’s decision and considered comments from the Ministry and the complainant. I formed the opinion that the framework was not inconsistent with the OIA and that the Ministry’s decision to implement the framework was not unreasonable in the circumstances.