Request for reports on Fire Service levy audits

Contrary to an enactment
Legislation:
Official Information Act 1982
Section 18
Legislation display text:
Official Information Act 1982, s 18(c)(i)
Agency:
New Zealand Fire Service Commission
Ombudsman:
Sir Brian Elwood
Case number(s):
W46283
Issue date:
Language:
English

Request for reports on Fire Service levy audits—duty of agents of New Zealand Fire Service Commission to report results of examination of records, books and accounts of insurance companies and agents to the Commission—s 51B Fire Service Act 1975—secrecy provisions—release would be contrary to the provisions of the Fire Service Act

The requester sought copies of reports prepared for the New Zealand Fire Service Commission on audits of levies paid to the Commission in accordance with the requirements of the Fire Service Act. These reports were submitted to the Commission in 1999 and 2000 by its agents appointed pursuant to section 51C of the Fire Service Act. The requester also sought information from another document which was released by the Commission subject to one deletion. The deleted information was a verbatim extract from one of the audit reports. The Commission refused to release both reports and the extract, relying on section 18(c)(i) of the OIA.

The relevant part of section 51B of the Fire Service Act provides that:

All returns, all extracts made in order to verify the returns, and all information received pursuant to sections 48,49, 49A, 49B, 51 and 51A of this Act shall be kept secret by the Commission, its agents and by every member of the Service ...

It was accepted that the two audit reports which summarised results of an audit of levy payments by insurance companies in terms of the requirements of the Fire Service Act, were subject to the secrecy requirements of section 51B of that Act. The Commission was therefore entitled to withhold the reports under section 18(c)(i), as to release them would be contrary to the provisions of the Fire Service Act.

However, the information in the extract from one of the audit reports which had been deleted from another document had been inadvertently released by the Commission as part of other information covered by the request. The Commission could not therefore withhold this information under section 18(c)(i) and it was released.

This case note is published under the authority of the Ombudsmen Rules 1989. It sets out an Ombudsman’s view on the facts of a particular case. It should not be taken as establishing any legal precedent that would bind an Ombudsman in future.

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