Tauranga City Council is one of two local body authorities’ part of self-initiated investigations into the official information practices of selected councils.
Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier says the investigations aim to establish whether councils have the leadership, culture, organisational systems, policies and procedures in place to support good official information practices.
The other council selected for investigation is Porirua City Council.
These follow the announcement of investigations of the practices of the Buller District Council and Invercargill City Council in early November.
“I have spoken to the Chief Executives of the two councils, and they both welcome the initiative,” says Peter.
“The selection process takes into account my strategic priorities, which for this year includes a continuing focus on local government, public perception of how an agency complies with its official information obligations, factors that might increase the public interest in how the agency is managing its obligations, and any complaints and contacts my Office has received.
“In addition to continuing my practice investigations into how central government agencies fulfil their obligations under the Official Information Act, this tranche of investigations focuses on the local government sector under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act.
“We want to see if councils are making the same progress as central government, as both the LGOIMA and the OIA are lynchpins of openness and accountability in our democracy. They encourage New Zealanders to take part in issues that affect them, and increase the transparency required by officials.”
Peter says the investigations are integral to his long-term strategy to help raise the quality of official information delivery from the public sector.
“I have to reinforce that the reports are not exercises in casting blame or being critical for criticism’s sake – they are also not used to rank agencies.”
He says reports are tailored to each agency.
“The key thing about these reports is that they not only help the agency involved, they also show other agencies what good practice can look like, and thereby help them improve as well.
“The outcome of the investigations will provide New Zealanders with continuing trust and confidence in public sector agencies, and outline the standards to which public sector agencies should aspire in terms of decision-making processes, transparency and accountability.”
The Chief Ombudsman is also keen to get the public’s input into the process, and has set up a survey for those who have recently made a request to access information held by the councils, or who have engaged with them through the LGOIMA processes within the last 6-12 months.
Surveying the agencies and the public
To assist in the investigations, the Chief Ombudsman will seek input from the public, councils and their staff. Throughout the course of the investigations, areas of good practice may be identified, and where any areas of weakness are found, suggestions may be made for improvement.
The survey looks at the councils’ processes, and peoples’ experiences had with them. They are not designed to reopen individual cases. For a new complaint, the usual process of approaching the Ombudsman remains. The survey is open until Friday, January 24, and is available on the following links: