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DHB mis-uses Official Information Act

Monday 7 November 2016

DHB mis-uses Official Information Act

Following the Canterbury DHB's apology for an incorrect response to an OIA request concerning safety matters at Greymouth Hospital construction site, the Democrats for Social Credit Party’s health spokesman David Tranter sent further questions to the DHB solicitor.

Mr Tranter asked what they would do about the long, drawn-out and evasive process followed by DHB staff which led to them making a totally wrong judgement on what was a very simple OIA question.

The farcical nature of the OIA process is further highlighted by the fact that four weeks later the DHB solicitor Greg Brogden has not responded to those questions, Mr. Tranter said.

So having admitted their bureaucrats, described by Mr. Brogden as the, "staff best placed to answer them" (i.e. OIA requests) got it completely wrong, it would appear that the DHB has no intention of doing anything to correct this situation. This can only further undermine public confidence in the OIA system regarding the Canterbury DHB.

The foolishness of this situation is further highlighted by the DHB ignoring the further matters raised with them whereby the bureaucrats responding actually altered the original question, spent several months sending irrelevant information not asked for, ignored my clarification of these matters and finally advised "The information is declined according to section 9(2)(a) of the OIA…..i.e. to protect the privacy of natural persons, including that of deceased natural persons; on the grounds that there is no public interest in the skills and experience of staff members that outweighs the privacy inferred to employees”.

The stupidity of such a time-wasting process is further highlighted by Mr. Brogden's pointing out that due to the number of requests they receive, the DHB is "stretched'' and that "the average request takes around 8 hours of staff time". In the case referred to here I would estimate that had their staff understood the OIA and simply answered the question asked this could have been done in a matter of minutes, Mr. Tranter said.

This raises two obvious questions;
1. How much time - on average - do DHB staff waste altering OIA questions asked and then sending our screeds of information not asked for?
2. If the staff who the DHB says are "best placed to answer" OIA questions don't understand the OIA legislation why don't they employ staff who do understand these matters?

Given that the correspondence with the DHB was copied to the Minister of Health and the Minister responsible for the OIA (without any acknowledgement from their offices) it would seem that this government has as little regard as the Canterbury DHB for the correct processes being followed concerning OIA requests.

Undaunted, the Democrats for Social Credit Party will continue to question the Canterbury DHB - and copy such messages to the two Ministers, Mr. Tranter said.


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