Request for information relating to Ministry of Education 2012 Special Education School Transport Assessment (SESTA) tender
In 2012, the Ministry of Education published a Request For Proposals (RFP) for the transport of special needs children for educational purposes called the ‘Special Education School Transport Assistance tender’ (SESTA tender). The Ministry awarded Go Bus Ltd (Go Bus) the contract for the Invercargill/Bluff cluster of routes. Blue Star Taxis Invercargill Ltd (Blue Star Taxis) requested copies of the information the Ministry held relating to that contract.
The information at issue contained extensive information relating to Go Bus staff employment conditions, drivers’ qualifications and experience, policies and procedures relating to staff induction, training, assessment and monitoring, SESTA tender requirements, complaint handling and other matters. The Ministry released some of the requested information in response to Blue Star Taxis’ request and my investigation. The Ministry withheld the balance of the information under section 9(2)(b)(ii) of the Official Information Act 1982 (OIA) on the basis that its release would be likely unreasonably to prejudice the commercial position of Go Bus.
I accepted the Ministry’s submission that releasing the information at issue would be likely to lead to tenderers losing the competitive incentive to strive for best practice standards in the provision of a quality transport service, consistent with the SESTA tender’s objective. In terms of section 9(1) of the OIA, there is a public interest in caregivers being able to see that successful SESTA tenderers have systems and practices to provide a quality transport service. Transparency is an important consideration. The Ministry undertook to publish information for caregivers about those matters to meet this interest.
Subject to publication of summary information about the systems and practices of successful SESTA tenderers, the Ministry was entitled to withhold the information at issue under section 9(2)(b)(ii).