Official information request complaints on the rise says Chief Ombudsman

Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier has released the latest Official Information Act and Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act complaints data.

The biannual data covers complaints about both Acts for the period 1 January 2021 to 30 June 2021. The figures show the Chief Ombudsman received 722 complaints about Official Information Act (OIA) decisions during this period.

This was up 8% on the 1 July 2020 to 31 December 2020 period during which 667 complaints were received.

The Chief Ombudsman also received 183 complaints about Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act (LGOIMA) responses in the first half of this year. This was up 30% on the previous half when 141 complaints were received.

Complaints about refusals to provide information, either in full or in part, made up more than half of complaints (55%) about OIA responses between 1 January 2021 and 30 June 2021. They also made up nearly half (49%) of complaints about LGOIMA responses in the same period.

Over the 2020-2021 year, 1389 complaints about OIA decisions were received (up 5% on 2019-2020).

Over the same period, 324 complaints about LGOIMA decisions were received (down 8% on the previous year). Refusals in full or in part for OIAs were up 6% to 746. Refusals in full or in part for LGOIMAs were down 2% to 165.

Boshier says there may be a number of reasons why information requests are refused and requesters were doing the right thing by complaining to the Chief Ombudsman if they were unhappy with the response.

He says: “However, it is useful for both requesters and agencies to be aware of their obligations under both the OIA and LGOIMA. The Acts support democratic, open and transparent central and local government. But there are occasions, detailed in the Acts, when information cannot and should not be released.”

More guidance is available here.

A summary table of the data is available on the Ombudsman New Zealand website.