Complaints rise over OIA delays

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Complaints about responses to Official Information Act (OIA) requests have risen 23.5 percent in six months, Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier says.

Complaints to the Ombudsman rose in the six months to 31 December 2021 from 722 to 892, according to latest data published today.

For the 2021 calendar year, a total of 1614 complaints about Official Information Act responses from central government agencies was received by the Ombudsman. This was up 33 percent from 1218 in the 2020 calendar year.

However, complaints about responses to Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act (LGOIMA) requests declined 17 percent in the six months to 31 December 2021, from 183 at 30 June 2021 to 152.

Over the 2021 calendar year, 335 LGOIMA complaints were received, compared with 295 in the 2020 calendar year, an increase of 14 percent.

“It is perhaps unsurprising that complaints about OIA responses have increased by so much. We are living through a pandemic and a huge amount of information is being generated about the Government’s actions and decisions that are affecting people” Mr Boshier says.

“It is natural for people in this rapidly shifting environment to want as much information as possible. This is reflected in the fact that complaints from individuals made up the majority of those received – 71 percent of OIA complaints and 86 percent of LGOIMA complaints. The next highest group was media complaints – 17 percent of OIA complaints and 5 percent of LGOIMA complaints.

“I appreciate that agencies are under pressure from a large number of requests under the OIA and LGOIMA, but they should not lose sight of the need to fulfil their obligations under the laws. My starting point is always that unless there is a good reason to withhold information, then it should be made available and without undue delay,” Mr Boshier says.

The biannual data published today covers complaints about both Acts for the period 1 July 2021 to 31 December 2021.

The biannual data published today covers complaints about both Acts for the period 1 July 2021 to 31 December 2021.

Complaints receivedReceivedIndividualMediaOther[1]  
LGOIMA152131813  
OIA89263615799  
Received – reasonsDelay in decisionRefusal in fullRefusal in partIncomplete / inadequate responseExtensionOther[3]
LGOIMA28383731810
OIA1612851839070103
Complaints completedCompletedIndividualMediaOther[2]  
LGOIMA111871311  
OIA66644613090  

[1] This includes all city, district and regional councils, as well as council controlled organisations, community boards, domain boards, public reserves boards and licensing trusts among others. See Schedules 1 & 2 LGOIMA for more details.

[2] For the LGOIMA, this comprises special interest groups and companies, associations, and incorporated societies.

For the OIA, this comprises departments, government organisations, or local authorities; companies, associations, incorporated societies; political party research units; special interest groups; trade unions; researchers; Members of Parliament; and review agencies (eg: HDC, IPCA).

[3] For the LGOIMA, this comprises decisions not made as soon as practicable, charge, manner or form of release, delay in releasing information, refusal – personal information about body corporate, Privacy Act request, extension, and other.

For the OIA, it comprises Privacy Act requests, charges, delay in releasing information, decisions not made as soon as reasonably practicable, refusal – statement of reasons, refusal – internal rules and guidelines, refusal – personal information about body corporate, manner or form of release, and other.

About the data

The data released by the Ombudsman concerns both OIA and LGOIMA complaints received and completed from 1 July to 31 December 2021. It includes information on the number of complaints received by Minister or agency, the nature of the complaint and type of complainant (media, private individual, etc). For the complaints completed, the data also includes the outcome of the complaint.

The data does not enable a direct comparison among agencies, as complaints data on its own does not give the full picture. The number of complaints received by the Ombudsman may be a very small proportion of the total number of OIA or LGOIMA requests received by an agency.

See the Ombudsman’s complaints data here.

More guidance is available here.

Shortly after the Ombudsman publishes complaints and outcomes data, Te Kawa Mataaho Public Service Commission publishes its own data on OIA requests received by agencies and their response times. This data can be viewed here after publication.

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