Thursday, May 30, 2024

Chief Ombudsman upholds text message block

The Chief Ombudsman has upheld a decision by the Chief Executive of the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) to withhold a text message about Cabinet Minister, Kiri Allan.

Peter Boshier today published his Final Opinion after receiving a complaint from National MP, Simeon Brown.

Mr Brown made a request to MBIE under the Official Information Act for information regarding the conduct or behaviour of the Minister.

MBIE’s Chief Executive, Caroline Tremain, identified a text message from a senior staff member to her as being in scope of the request.

However, she decided to withhold the information on the grounds she wanted to protect the free and frank exchange of information between officials.

In his Final Opinion, Mr Boshier has found the Chief Executive was entitled to make that decision.

Mr Boshier says officials need to be able to engage with each other in a candid and unreserved way to work effectively.

“I recognise that it is important that Chief Executives and their senior managers are able to communicate in a free, frank and efficient manner. If such information was released, I believe officials would become more inhibited about communicating in this way in the future,” he said.

“This would likely result in less robust, efficient and engaged discussions between senior officials.”

Mr Boshier says that while he acknowledges there is a public interest in the accountability of Ministers for their conduct, he considered this public interest had been adequately met by MBIE providing further contextual information behind the text message in question.

“I believe this will satisfy the public interest and I understand the Ministry has now provided this contextual information to Mr Brown.”

Read the Chief Ombudsman’s opinion under the Official Information Act.

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