Government agencies are responding more quickly to requests for information under the Official Information Act but there is still room for improvement, according to the Office of the Ombudsman and the State Services Commission.
Data released by the two organisations shows government agencies answered 93% of Official Information Act (OIA) requests within legislative timeframes, or 39,000 out of a total of 41,935. This is up 5.4 percentage points on the 87.6% of on-time responses recorded the previous year.
Under the OIA, agencies need to respond within 20 working days of receiving a request, unless they need an extension because of the amount of work involved.
State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes says while it was good to see timeliness was improving, there is still plenty to do. “The Official Information Act sets clear timeframes for responses and we need to be meeting them every time.”
Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier says the OIA is central to open democracy. “It gives people access to information about the decisions that affects their lives, and it builds trust and engagement with government. My Office will continue to work proactively with agencies to encourage an overall lift in OIA performance.”
This is the second time the Office of the Ombudsman and the SSC have released this data, and Mr Boshier believes publishing the information has encouraged agencies to “self review and lift their game”. The data will continue to be published every six months.
- 51.5% of all requests were handled by three agencies: Police (11,257), EQC (6,924) and Corrections (3,425).
- Most complaints to the Office of the Ombudsman concerned the refusal in full of an official information request. The Office of the Ombudsman received 178 of these complaints in the first six months of 2017.
- The Office of the Ombudsman received 139 complaints about refusal in part of an official information request, and 108 complaints about a delay in the decision on a request.
- Other complaints were about things like an incomplete response, or a decision to charge for information.