Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Unofficial Official Info Act Guide

Official Information Act 1982 (OIA) or the Local

Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987 (LGOIMA).


Requests under the Act. Be very afraid.

There seems to be a bit of confusion on this one although I’m not sure why.

EVERYTHING YOU DO IS REQUESTABLE (when it's public agencies). So this stuff isn't just important for public sector wallahs. If you have dealings with a government organisation your meeting doodles could go in the big archive box too.
(A bit simplistic because there’s also sorts of James Bond things about protecting secrets and not eavesdropping on the Queen and all that but it’s a general guide and I’m not
lawyer and it takes to long to explain otherwise).


Documents, especially report type documents and invoices for cups of coffee and airfares seem to be flavour of the month with media but in general, EVERYTHING.

What information can you be requested?

You can ask for any specified official information that is held by a Minister or central or local government organisation.

This can include:
documents, reports, letters, memoranda, emails and draft documents;

non-written information, such as video tapes or recordings;

the reasons for any decisions that have been made about you;

manuals which set out internal policies, principles, rules or guidelines; and

agendas and minutes of meetings, including those not open to the public.


What does this mean?


If you’re working on a “public money is paying for this” project then someone can all or email you right this minute and ask for all your stuff. EVERYTHING. It might be the unemployed nutter that’s protesting for more right for feijoas, it might be the dashing John Campbell, but there’s not many ways out of it.


I have been on projects that have had to stop for two weeks to respond to an OIA request to meet the 20-day deadline to respond and pull all the crap together.


It’s quite terrifying having the contents of your email purged and printed for public dissection and the experience has left me just a wee bit paranoid (I now wear tinfoil undies to work). The little red book that you doodle on in meetings..yup that goes too.


In addition to tinfoil undies, I also regularly beat people that take notes on everything in meetings (can someone make a file note on that stupid thing the GM just said so it can get on the telly—great thanks) and reserve special Friday beatings for people that document the organisation’s bowel movements via email.  This includes you ad agencies and especially PR company tarts that write short essays on how an unravelling media issue should be managed. Pick up the phone or I will beat you with it.


“Mayor Rhonda Fagg ran into one of the stakeholders last night at the Viaduct and they got on the absinthe and it’s all sorted now cos I think he’s got a bit of a thing for her <smiley face>”.


Is all very  LOL for you but not for your client.


You should have seen the sheer terror when I asked a member of parliament  “can you request MP’s text messages under OIA?”

(Turns out you can’t, they can change shapeshift)


government Ministers in their official capacity (information which is held by Ministers in their capacity as MPs or private individuals is not official linformation);

but the unplanned punking was quite amusing.


I was told that writing DRAFT all over everything somehow made things magically invisible but a quick check through the Act and I can’t see that being true. Writing PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL certainly makes no difference; other than drawing more attention to the thing you don’t want seen.


Have a read through the guide or I’ll beat you.


PS. If you are requesting information, don’t be a goat. Most organisations trip over themselves to be helpful and compliant. Ask clear questions about what you want and what you want it for to scope the request. If you request everything on a five-year public works project you’re never going to be able to go through all the crap anyway unless you’re Rain Man.




Posted via email from cjlambert's posterous

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