16 Oct 2016

FYI there's unreported news in those OIAs

From Mediawatch, 9:07 am on 16 October 2016

Last month the story of Papanui Library installing a so-called mosquito device to deter teenagers went international. But what wasn't reported anywhere was that the high noise emitting device was purchased way back in 2010 by the Fendalton Waimairi Community Board on the advice of the police and that the police have been administering it ever since.

That tidbit of information is contained in an official information request on the FYI.org.nz website - a website designed to simplify making requests under the Official Information Act and the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Acts.

The site - which uses open source software developed in Britain - has been responsible for more than 4500 - official information requests since being launched in 2009.

A request that did end up in the news was one made by the No Pride in Prisons activist group that revealed that thousands of prisoners were being stripped searched each year.

Then there are requests like this one which asked for the names of the Customs Services' dogs - which excited a lot of interest on social media.

Site administrator Oliver Lineham told Mediawatch one of the advantages of the site was that users could give each other feedback and let them know if government agencies were giving them the run-around.

He said a couple of weeks back he let the late trade union leader Helen Kelly know that a city council had miscalculated the due date for a request she'd made using the site.

Helen Kelly it seems was holding the powerful to account right to the end. 

More than 360,000 what do they know.

Oliver Lineham said some of those using the FYI.org.nz site had put in follow up requests asking to see the advice that was sent to the minister about the request and the requester under the no surprises rule. 

And he described the memos sent to minister as  “a bit creepy.”

“They usually have some research about who the requester is and what their background is and making some guesses and making some guesses as to what they might do with the information.” 

“If you have made an OIA I would encourage you to follow that up later on later on asking for a copy of that memo."