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Official Information Act response times improving

Official Information Act response times improving

State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes has today published the Official Information Act statistics for the 2016/17 year showing an improvement in the timeliness of responses.

Agencies responded to 93% of all requests on time (39,000 of 41,935 in total), which is up 5.4 percentage points from the 87.6% recorded for 2015/16.

“Government agencies need to be open and transparent with New Zealanders,” Mr Hughes said. “When New Zealanders ask us for information we need to respond properly every time.”

The latest statistics cover 111 different agencies who collectively handled 41,935 requests, which is a 4.1% increase on the 40,273 requests in 2015/16. The number of requests to each agency ranged from 0 to 11,257 with a median number of 73.

Agency on-time performance ranged from 62.9% to 100% of requests handled within legislated timeframes. A total of 40 agencies achieved 100% on time performance.

“It’s good to see that timeliness is improving, but there is still plenty to do,” Mr Hughes said.

“The Official Information Act sets clear timeframes for responses and we need to be meeting them every time,” he said.

District Health Boards have improved overall, with the median on time performance across the group increasing from 82.4% to 88.8%, and 15 of the 20 DHBs improving. However, DHBs remain the poorest performing group overall.

“The increase in timeliness is good to see but DHBs need to keep working hard as significant improvement is still required,” said Mr Hughes.

“A small number of Public Service departments showed poorer on-time performance than last year. This is not good enough and I have written to the Chief Executives asking them to provide me with their plans to improve their agency’s performance in this area,” said Mr Hughes.

By contrast, the Departments of Conservation and Corrections both handled significantly more requests this year (53% and 39% increases respectively) and improved timeliness performance (from 73% to 90% and from 91% to 97% respectively).

“This is an excellent result and I commend the Chief Executives and staff of these agencies for their commitment and hard work,” Mr Hughes said.

Six agencies (NZSIS, GCSB, Civil Aviation Authority, Ministry of Justice, Ministry for the Environment and Heritage NZ) reported degraded timeliness performance as a result of restricted building access following the Kaikoura earthquake in November 2016.

SSC will be publishing a range of OIA guidance material over the coming months. This material is designed to give useful and practical assistance and help streamline the process for State servants who respond to OIA requests. This guidance is being developed with assistance and advice from the Office of the Ombudsman.

“This guidance will help agencies improve their processes and help staff to get the responses right,” said Mr Hughes.

The Chief Ombudsman is also today publishing data setting out the number of complaints received by his office and details of what was done in response, including the final view issued.

“Together these statistics give a comprehensive view on how well government agencies are meeting their obligations under the Official Information Act,” Mr Hughes said.

The latest OIA statistics are available on the SSC websitehttp://www.ssc.govt.nz/official-information-act-statistics

The Chief Ombudsman’s complaints data is available on the Office of the Ombudsman website http://www.ombudsman.parliament.nz/resources-and-publications/oia-complaints-data

Noteworthy Observations

51.5% of all requests were handled by three agencies: Police (11,257), EQC (6,924), and Corrections (3,425).

80% of all requests were handled by 16 agencies.

Seven agencies handled more than 1,000 requests: Police, EQC, Corrections, Fire and Emergency, MBIE, Defence, and Customs.

New Zealand Police account for more than one quarter of all OIA requests (26.8%). Their volume was up slightly (2%) this year, and their timeliness performance improved by thirteen percentage points from 78% to 91%.

580 complaints to the Ombudsman were notified to agencies. This represents 1.38% of OIA requests handled (approximately 1 in 72).

A total of 117 final views were made by the Ombudsman against agencies. This represents 0.28% of OIA requests handled (approximately 1 in 360) and 21% of notified complaints.


ENDS


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