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OIA complaints rise in six months

Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier has released the latest Official Information Act and Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act complaints data.

The biannual data covers complaints about both Acts for the period 1 January 2021 to 30 June 2021.

The figures show the Chief Ombudsman received 722 complaints about Official Information Act (OIA) decisions during this period. This was up 8 per cent on the 1 July 2020 to 31 December 2020 period during which 667 complaints were received.

The Chief Ombudsman also received 183 complaints about Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act (LGOIMA) responses in the first half of this year. This was up 30 per cent on the previous half when 141 complaints were received.

Complaints about refusals to provide information, either in full or in part, made up more than half of complaints (55 per cent) about OIA responses between 1 January 2021 and 30 June 2021.

They also made up nearly half (49 per cent) of complaints about LGOIMA responses in the same period.

Over the 2020-2021 year, 1389 complaints about OIA decisions were received (up 5 per cent on 2019-2020). Over the same period, 324 complaints about LGOIMA decisions were received (down 8 per cent on the previous year).

Refusals in full or in part for OIAs were up 6 per cent to 746. Refusals in full or in part for LGOIMAs were down 2 per cent to 165.

Mr Boshier says there may be a number of reasons why information requests are refused and requesters were doing the right thing by complaining to the Chief Ombudsman if they were unhappy with the response.

"However, it is useful for both requesters and agencies to be aware of their obligations under both the OIA and LGOIMA. The Acts support democratic, open and transparent central and local government. But there are occasions, detailed in the Acts, when information cannot and should not be released.

"My office is happy to provide advice to requesters and agencies," Mr Boshier says.

More guidance is available here.

A summary table of the data is available on the Ombudsman New Zealand website.

ABOUT THE DATA

The data released by the Ombudsman concerns both OIA and LGOIMA complaints received and completed from 1 January to 30 June 2021. 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). For the complaints completed, the data also includes the outcome of the complaint.

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

See the Ombudsman’s complaints data here.

FAQs on Official information complaint data publications can be found here.

At the same time as the Ombudsman publishes complaints and outcomes data, Te Kawa Mataaho Public Service Commission (formerly the State Services Commission) publishes its data on OIA requests received by agencies and their response times. This data can be viewed here.

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