4 Dec 2017

How open and transparent is the new government?

2:25 pm on 4 December 2017

The government's compliance with the Official Information Act (OIA) has improved dramatically in the past couple of years, according to the chief ombudsman.

Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier.

Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier. Photo: Office of the Ombudsman

The coalition government has pledged to be more open and transparent than previous administrations.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Morning Report earlier today the new government was actively looking at greater transparency around ministers' briefings and cabinet papers.

Chief ombudsman Peter Boshier said he and the State Services Commissioner were determined to reduce delays in OIA responses when he took over the chief ombudsman role in 2012.

He said they agreed to speak publicly and release statistics to highlight departments and minister that were not performing.

"It's made a demonstrable difference, we've found in the most recent research that we've done, that compliance with timeliness has increased hugely, and I think it's because people know that we mean business and we do."

Mr Boshier said there needed to be a message from the top levels of government that the OIA was to be complied with.

"I think that what question that a lot of ministers and officials should ask is this: 'what harm is there going to be in releasing certain details?'.

"The world won't fall over when a lot of information is in fact released, but there has been, in my opinion, a risk aversion that has been unjustified."

Mr Boshier said when his office received a complaint, it got the raw base information from the minister or officials.

"We get everything, we look at the redactions that they've made and the view we take, and I can tell you that often the redactions are not justified."