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

 

Max Rashbrooke: A Failure Of Measurement: Inside The Budget Lock-Up

Shortly after the embargo lifted at 2pm news organisations started filing reports claiming that health, and to a lesser extent housing and education, were the ‘big winners’ out of the Budget. It failed to take into account the fact that in most cases the apparent increases were in fact cuts. Because of the twin effects of inflation and population. More>>

ALSO:

DOCtored Figures: Minister Clarifies DOC Budget

“Commentators have overlooked the fact $20.7m of that perceived shortfall is new funding for Battle for our Birds 2016, provided for in last week’s Budget...” DOC also has approval in principle to carry over a further $20m to 16/17 due to unexpected delays in a number of projects. More>>

ALSO:

For The Birds: Gordon Campbell On The Budget

Budgies, so their Wikipedia page says, are popular pets around the world due to their small size, low cost, and ability to mimic human speech. Which is a reasonably good description of Finance Minister Bill English eighth Budget. . More>>

Max Rashbrooke On The 2016 Budget

The best label for this year’s announcement by Bill English might be the ‘Bare Minimum Budget’. It does the bare minimum to defuse potential political damage in a range of areas – homelessness and health are prime among them – but almost nothing to address the country’s most deep-rooted, systemic social problems. Indeed the Budget hints that these problems may get worse. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On Bank Scandals (And Air Crashes)

Last month, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) filed proceedings against Westpac over activities that have some distinct echoes of the Libor scandal. More>>

Budget: Health Funding Must Keep Up With Need

NZNO: “The nursing team has been doing more with less for years. It’s getting to the point that we’re really worried about our colleagues, our patients, our jobs and the level of health care available for people in our country." More>>

ALSO:

Emissions Inventory: Time For The Government To Do The Right Thing

It’s time for the National Government to step up and do the right thing to reduce climate pollution as data shows New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions are higher than ever, the Green Party said today. More>>

ALSO:

Budget 2016: More Partnership Schools To Open

Seven new schools will join the eight Partnership Schools already open, along with further new schools opening in 2017. “The growth of this policy is a reflection of the high level of interest from educators and community leaders,” Mr Seymour says. More>>

ALSO:

No Correspondence With English: Did Brownlee Make Up Sale Of Navy Ships ‘On The Hoof?’

Having revealed that several Royal New Zealand Navy vessels have not left port in years, New Zealand First is now asking the Minister of Defence to prove he did not come up with the idea of selling HMNZS Taupo and Pukaki until the media asked him. More>>

Get More From Scoop

 

LATEST HEADLINES

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Politics
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news