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Latest OIA data released by the Ombudsman

The Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier today released his latest Official Information Act data, which shows a 34% rise in complaints received by his office since the data was first published two-and-a-half years ago.

The number of OIA complaints received by the Office of the Ombudsman in the six months from 1 July to 31 December 2018 increased from 697 in the previous six months to 1194, with 471 of these complaints from one individual relating to delayed responses from school Boards of Trustees. Without that block of complaints, there were 723 complaints received, an increase on the previous six months of 3.7%.

Individuals made up 70% of complaints (discounting the 471) followed by the media at 20%, with political parties or research units accounting for 6% of complaints.

As in the past, the three main areas of complaint (discounting the 471) were delays in decision making (20%), refusal of information in part (21%) and refusal in full (30%).

The Office of the Ombudsman completed 662 complaints, with 41% either not requiring investigation, or being resolved before an investigation began. Only 20% required the Ombudsman to form a final opinion.

"Despite receiving more complaints than we closed, largely due to the work required for the complaints from one individual, our ability to resolve complaints swiftly shows that our early resolution process is working well," says Mr Boshier.

"The growing number of complaints reflects increasing confidence in the ability of my Office to deal with issues. Our focus is both on timely investigations and resolutions, and as at 31 December, we resolved 76% of complaints received within three months and 95% within nine months of receipt.

"I am actively encouraging agencies to be proactive in releasing information which promotes transparency and accountability in the public sector.

"I’m also heartened to see the State Services Commission has reported a significant increase in the number of OIA responses that have been proactively published.

"My Office continues to play a vital role in informing and educating the public sector on how the OIA works and how they can be more efficient and accessible to New Zealanders. We are also being much more proactive with agencies to help them improve their performance - this is reflected in a 63% increase in demand for our advice and guidance from the public sector."

Mr Boshier also announced that in the next set of data, due in September, data on local bodies subject to the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act (LGOIMA) would also be released. [1]

"It’s important that we report across as many government agencies as possible, and the addition of local body data will give the public even more insights into the complaints we are receiving and the performance of public organisations."

About the data

The data released by the Office of the Ombudsman concerns OIA complaints received and complaint resolution from July to December 2018. It includes information on the number of complaints received by Minister or agency, the nature of the complaint and type of complainant (media, private individual, etc), and the outcome of the complaint.

The data doesn’t enable a direct comparison among agencies, as complaints data on its own doesn’t give the full picture. The number of complaints received by the Ombudsman may be a very small proportion of the total number of OIA requests received by an agency.

The purpose of the data is to provide information on the overall number and type of complaints received by the Ombudsman, and the outcome of an investigation. This will be useful for showing trends over time, and we encourage agencies to use the data for self-review purposes.

At the same time as the Office published its complaints and outcomes data, the State Services Commission published its data on OIA requests received by agencies and their response times.

View the Ombudsman’s data on OIA complaints for July to December 2018 here.

[1] This includes all city, district and regional councils, as well as council controlled organisations, community boards, domain boards, public reserves boards and licensing trusts among others. See Schedules 1 & 2 LGOIMA for more details.

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