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LGOIMA review suggestions welcomed

Horowhenua District Council will introduce changes to improve its practice and compliance with the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act following a review by the Office of the Ombudsman.

The review was one of three carried out by the Office of the Ombudsman – Horowhenua District Council was chosen to represent district councils, Christchurch City Council was chosen to represent city councils, and Treasury was chosen to represent central government.

While the review did not identify any conduct by Council that was wrong, unreasonable or contrary to law, ten suggestions for improvement were made. The review praised Council for its systems and policies: “The fact that the Council has excellent systems and strong official information policies is testament to the leadership it has had in recent years.”

Horowhenua District Council Chief Executive David Clapperton welcomed the review. He said while the recommendations are suggestions only, he intends to implement them.

“As an organisation, we are focused on taking our practice from good to great. The Ombudsman’s review will help us do that,” said Mr Clapperton.

The suggestions include:

• Appointing an executive sponsor for official information practices

• Place all media, elected member and property information requests through the LGOIMA process

• Establish a peer review structure for LGOIMA responses

• Senior leaders to actively foster a positive LGOIMA culture

• Build a better public reputation for transparency by incorporating LGOIMA and proactive release into community engagement strategies.

In addition, Council will introduce regular all staff reminders about LGOIMA best practice and update LGOIMA information on its website, which the Ombudsman commended Council as an example of a good website.

Mr Clapperton said he is sure that councils around New Zealand will learn from the review as well and implement the suggestions that apply to them.”

One of the concerns raised in the review was a reduction in response times. In 2017/18 year, 141 LGOIMA requests were received, and 87.9% were processed within the statutory timeframe – that compared with 63 LGOIMA requests in the 2015/16 year when 95.2% were processed within the statutory timeframe.

The current year is tracking lower again, and Mr Clapperton said he shares the Ombudsman’s concerns.

“I’m certain that by implementing the Ombudsman’s suggestions, we can lift response times back to levels last seen three years ago.”

A copy of the Ombudsman’s review can be found on the website of the Office of the Ombudsman - LGOIMA compliance and practice - Horowhenua District Council

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