Local councils failing to meet OIA obligations

The chief ombudsman has said that local councils are failing to meet their obligations under the Official Information Act.

RNZ:  Local councils slammed for failing to supply information

Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier said councils are not meeting their responsibilities under the Local Government Official Information and Meeting Act and that some councils seem to resent having to be held accountable.

“The performance of many councils is disappointing. Local government is absolutely fundamental to democracy, and in that respect the need for accountability and supply of information is just as strong as it is with central government, and yet many local councils don’t see it that way.

“We will commence a better process of publicising our data on complaints, giving better guidance and encouraging an earlier dispute resolution process so ratepayers who often have legitimate complaints can get to the end of the journey earlier than before.”

Last year 248 complaints were received under the act, Mr Boshier said.

There was a mix of a failure to supply information and other queries about process, he said.

People wanted to know why a council came up with certain rates, what had happened at meetings, and follow up information, for example.

The whole idea of the act was to make sure there was accountability and so ratepayers could participate in democracy.

The Dunedin City Council was slammed in an ODT editorial on Monday – see ODT editorial on secrecy and the OIA

In one case, the council is choosing not to answer questions which have been put to it by this newspaper for nearly a year about alleged bullying and other problems in its city property department. Despite Official Information Act requests, it is withholding a Deloitte report, saying it needs to protect privacy and also citing commercial sensitivity. Elected representatives and council staff all ran for cover when asked for comment. The ODT has now referred the matter to the Office of the Ombudsman.

This refusal to engage is a very troubling development. Stalling, fudging and engaging in sophistry make any organisation look bad.

Especially when the mayor and councillors campaigned on greater transparency. Politicians want transparency on successes, but want secrecy on failures and embarrassments – that’s a natural human trait, which is why the OIA is important to make sure they are transparent about everything, not just what they choose to reveal.

7 Comments

  1. Trevors_elbow

     /  February 21, 2018

    Local Government… a Cesspit of cronyism, dodgy contracting, non accountability and rampant cost plus monopolistic rate setting behaviour it seems to me

    It appears CEOs of councils think they are running businesses to benefit their salaries and the salaries of their senior management structure.

    Ratepayers have no clout and councillors seem to be nothing more than window dressing. Voting in local body elections leads to little if any change in council behaviours… hence voters dont bother.

    Complete reform is required…

    • Blazer

       /  February 21, 2018

      unbelievable….I agree with ..you!

      • Trevors_elbow

         /  February 21, 2018

        I dont like monopolies bol

        And i dont like corruption

        And i loathe bureaucratic nonesense and the failures who hide in local government styming people trying to get ahead

        The first two items we have never bern in disagreement on.. we differ on solutions and approaches

    • PDB

       /  February 21, 2018

      234 spin doctors at Auckland Council would disagree with you.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  February 21, 2018

      Spot on, Trev. The calamitous consequence of Labour and Bassett’s local government amalgamation and reform in 1989 designed to cement Labour’s political control of big city councils with powerless Community Boards as an add-on sop to local representation.

      It achieved its political purpose and has been a disaster in every other aspect.

      • Blazer

         /  February 21, 2018

        Al behind the times as usual…National/Acts new Super City was going to streamline council operations.Synergies were going to save money….and what have we got…over 2,300 people on over 100,000 p.an….an even bigger…gravy train.

        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  February 21, 2018

          Same false rationale, same disaster, B. But the rest of the country is still wearing Labour/Bassett’s original stupidity.