Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | News Video | Crime | Employers | Housing | Immigration | Legal | Local Govt. | Maori | Welfare | Unions | Youth | Search

 


Govt Transparency A Necessity Not A Luxury, Ombudsmen Told

Media release

November 16, 2012

Government Transparency A Necessity Not A Luxury, Ombudsmen Told

A Canadian law professor says governments are using the current austerity as an excuse to limit openness and transparency.

Professor Alasdair Roberts, Professor of Law and Public Policy at Suffolk University Law School in Boston, the United States, is a speaker at the 10th World Conference of the International Ombudsman Institute which is being held in Wellington.

He says the natural impulse for leaders in a time of austerity is to say transparency is a luxury. It is a common problem around the world and has been for some years.

"Government can harm openness by cutting the budget available for the administration of open government laws and by changing the public sector in ways that undermine transparency, for example by privatising functions."

Professor Roberts says one habit of government is to remove functions from the operations of laws like the Official Information Act, which means that people don't have access to information about important public bodies they once had.

"Transparency is very important. It is important to make government work well and it is important for maintaining accountability.

"Political executives and senior public servants very often don't like transparency because it makes life more difficult for them and sometimes they will seize on austerity as an excuse to limit transparency -- that's something we have to watch for."

He says governments might argue they don’t have time for transparency because they have get on with the hard work of making government work better and cost less.

"But the question might well be, how will the rest of us know that they have got on with the difficult work of making the government work better and cost less if we don't have those transparency tools available to us anymore?

"Transparency is an essential tool for holding governments accountable and for making sure they are doing what they said they were going to do. And that is just as true in bad times as it is in good times."

Professor Roberts says the crisis itself a failure of transparency.
"Around the world we are seeing two crises right now - a financial crisis, followed in many countries by a debt crisis, where mounting government debt is driving austerity.
And in both of those cases you can say that these crises came about by a lack of transparency -- people did not really know what was going on."

He says in the private sector, home owners were borrowing money without understanding the terms of the contract and financial institutions and credit agencies were doing complicated manoeuvres they did not really understand either.

"With the debt crisis, we have seen many governments around the world only now conceding that their liabilities in good times were actually much greater than they were telling people. They were either ignorant of their actual fiscal position or deliberately misleading on their position," Professor Roberts says.

The Office of Ombudsman and other organisations interested in transparency must make the counter-argument that transparency in difficult times is a necessity and should not be regarded as a luxury.

"Governments are going to be making tough choices that affect large numbers of people and the public need to know how those decisions were made and why they were made the way they were. The way we assure the public that things are being done properly is by preserving transparency in government.

"The job of making sure we take transparency seriously needs to be shared not just by ombudsman but by parliamentarians, by members of the media, by civil society and interested organisations. We all have a joint interest in making sure these accountability mechanisms remain healthy.

“If we don't, you will see decisions that don't have the popular support they might because people don’t understand how they were made. You will also see decisions that were made badly because people don't have the opportunity to scrutinise those decisions and have input," he says.

ENDs

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

 

Gordon Campbell: The PM’s Hair-Pulling Power Trip

There have been striking differences between (a) the account of the waitress involved in the hair-pulling incidents, and (b) the account being given by Prime Minister John Key. The version by the waitress is available here and is recommended to anyone yet to read it. By her account, there were multiple instances of hair-pulling and these persisted and persisted long after she had made her annoyance clear to Key – who had also been advised by his wife, and by other café staff that the behavior was evidently not being welcomed. More>>

ALSO:

War: What’s To Commemorate?

Gordon Campbell in Werewolf: Is there anything that can be validly commemorated on this 100th anniversary of Gallipoli? Beyond, that is, a fleeting sense of empathy with the thousands of soldiers killed or wounded on April 25 1915 and in the months thereafter, until the whole thing was finally called off in December 1915. More>>

MORE IN WEREWOLF:

ALSO:

Peter Ellis Case: Minister Declines Request For Commission Of Inquiry

Justice Minister Amy Adams has declined a request from supporters of Peter Ellis for a Commission of Inquiry on the basis that an inquiry cannot be used to determine the liability of any person. More>>

Quakes: New Process For Red Zone Crown Offers

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee has announced a process to give everyone a say on the Crown offers to owners of vacant, commercial/industrial and uninsured properties in the Residential Red Zone. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Battle Obama Is Waging Over The TPP

For the past two and a half years, this column has been arguing that the fate of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal will hinge on whether US President Barack Obama can win Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) from Congress... Last week, the White House finally, finally unveiled a draft TPA Bill. More>>

ALSO:

Greens: Govt Breaks Free Doctors Visit Promise To Kids

Documents obtained by the Green Party show that the Government decided to fund only 90 percent of doctors’ visits for children suffering from an injury in an attempt trim the cost of the so-called “free” visits. More>>

ALSO:

Other Wars: Extension Of NZDF Commitment In Afghanistan

The New Zealand Defence Force’s commitment of mentors and support staff to the Afghan National Army Officer Academy in Afghanistan has been extended out to December 2016, Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee says. More>>

PM's Press Conference: Auckland Property Prices Increasing "Too Rapidly"

John Key accepted that Auckland property prices 'are going up too rapidly” in a press conference held today in Wellington, however he said that this is not anything new. More>>

ALSO:

Press Conference: ANZAC PMs Concerned About ISIL Bringing The War Home

Prime Minister Key and Prime Minister Abbott spoke of the bond formed between Australia and New Zealand in the “baptism of fire” of Gallipoli. Abbott stated that New Zealand and Australia’s values and interests are linked, and this is reflected in the joint operation in Iraq which will begin shortly. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 

LATEST HEADLINES

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Politics
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news