Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier has released a model protocol which government agencies or their Ministers may use or adapt for the handling of Official Information Act 1982 requests.
The release and his calls for adoption of the protocol come alongside his final opinion on an investigation of KiwiRail's processing of an OIA request for a business case on Auckland's proposed Third Main railway line.
Judge Boshier says he has formed the opinion that while KiwiRail did not act in a manner that was wrong, unreasonable or contrary to law, some aspects during the processing of the OIA request could be subject to a level of criticism.
He has found no evidence of improper ministerial involvement.
“There is a line between ministerial input into an agency’s OIA decision and ministerial interference, but that line was not crossed in this case,” Judge Boshier says.
“KiwiRail was entitled to notify the Minister of the OIA request, and to consult the Minister before reaching a decision on that request. The Minister was also entitled to his view on the request, and for his office to raise the matter with KiwiRail’s senior management when agreement could not be reached.”
Judger Boshier says he has provided copies of the model protocol to both KiwiRail and the Minister.
“The clauses in this model agreement include a provision that the agency will consider the views of the Minister in good faith and with an open mind before making a decision on a request," he says.
"It also makes clear that the office of a Minister will not provide inappropriate input like asking or instructing the agency to act in a way contrary to the requirements of the OIA.”