Charging for OIAs

A number of journos on Twitter have started highlighting the somewhat ridiculous amounts of money they’re being quoted by government departments and DHBs to fulfil requests made under the Official Information Act. The Spinoff had a hilarious take on it.

Apparently this is permissible under the Official Information Act – though the Act itself probably needs an update to deal with the realities of email and OIA-requests-via-Twitter.

But I started pondering if this shows a worrying disconnect between some parts of the public service and the people they theoretically work for – no, not Cabinet Ministers. From my Twitter musings on the topic:

The charging-for-OIAs issue highlights a fundamental disconnect: govt agencies don’t think it’s part of their job to provide information.

So it makes perfect sense to them: finding and collating info for journalists and citizens is additional, and has not been budgeted for.

Whereas journalists and citizens have this odd belief that there’s a basic obligation of transparency and open info from our govt.

Therefore it is baffling and a little scary that our govt agencies want to charge us for access to information which is ours by right.

It would be great to see some real political movement on this. The difficulty is it’s easy enough to demand open and transparent government when you’re in Opposition – and much harder to hold the line once you’re the one in the Beehive trying to govern a country and not look like an utter prat.

But why listen to me on the subject when the canonical text has been around for 36 years?

What do you reckon?

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