Thursday, July 18, 2024

Publishing first for new OIA measures

Public Service Commissioner Peter Hughes has published expanded performance measures of the Official Information Act for government agencies.

It is the first time the Public Service has collected and published data on the use of extensions, refusals and transfers.

New data for the six months to June shows 8.5% of requests were extended and 2.8% were transferred.

The average time to respond to all OIA requests across the Public Service, including Crown entities and departmental agencies, was 12.5 working days.

Of the 6.4% of requests refused in full, nearly 80% were because the information was not held, did not exist, was already in the public arena or would soon be publicly available.

The Commissioner said the new data showed agencies were maintaining high levels of performance and the use of extensions, transfers and refusals were not a factor.

“Concerns were raised around timeliness and use of extensions and the evidence is now in,” said Mr Hughes.

“The Public Service in recent years has seen a massive increase in the volume of OIA requests and agencies have consistently done an excellent job responding on time. The use of extensions, transfers and refusals are not being over-used across the system and are not having an undue influence on the response times of agencies. An average 12.5 working days response to all OIA requests is a very good result.”

Mr Hughes said the latest data showed the public sector as a system was performing well on its OIA obligations. The new data being collected would also help to identify where individual agencies may need support.

“By and large we are getting it right but that doesn’t mean we will stop working hard to continuously improve our performance across the system,” said Mr Hughes.

The latest statistics show 121 agencies completed 26,613 requests in the reporting period. This represents a decrease of 3,068 (or 10.3%) compared to the previous period. The first decrease in volumes since we started collecting data.

Agencies responded to 25,797, or 96.9% of requests on time, a slight decrease of 0.4 percent for the previous period.

Publication of OIA responses increased 4.5% to 2,712 with 69 agencies publishing responses during this period, up from 64 in the last period.

To further improve performance across the Public Service, the Commissioner is now going to shift the focus to getting more agencies to publish OIA responses and how to support the proactive release of Cabinet papers.

There were 262 Ombudsman complaints notified to agencies, up from the record low of 158 in the six months to December 2021. Complaints to the Ombudsman were up in the second half of last year, predominantly to agencies leading the Covid-19 response, and those complaints have flowed through into this reporting period as the Ombudsman’s office continues to work through them. However, complaints against agencies received by the Ombudsman in the last six months are down 18%.

Of the complaints completed by the Ombudsman, agencies were found deficient in 21, down from 44, or more than 50%, on the previous six months. The number of findings against agencies represents less than 0.1% of the 26,613 requests completed.

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