Official Information Act

Questioning the Extremely Dodgy Hawkes Bay Regional Council

Fenton "Jong-un" Wilson

Fenton “Jong-un” Wilson

Regular readers will know this blog considers the Hawkes Bay Regional Council to be extremely dodgy. Despite being the regulator they have attempted to build a dodgy socialist dam that will turn the Tukituki River toxic, and an independent Board of Inquiry basically couldn’t believe that the council’s experts had changed their opinion on whether Nitrogen levels needed to be managed. 

The tipline has been running hot with rumours about dodgy dealings at the Hawkes Bay Regional Council and their dodgy Chairman Fenton ‚ÄúJong-Un‚ÄĚ Wilson so we have decided to ask a series of questions using the Official Information Act to get to the bottom of what these ratbags have been up to. ¬†

First up is an attempt to find out what happened with bully and all round bastard Andrew Newman’s salary.

Word is that some very, very dodgy dealings have happened to give him a grotesque salary increase of $84,000 at the beginning of the year, with Jong-Un Wilson hiding details of a previous independent evaluation from new councillors. ¬†¬† Read more »

Lydia Ko funding outcry earns Sports NZ some unwelcome attention

Fairfax is getting some resistance to finding out where all the tax payers’ money is really going once it leaves Sports NZ’s stash

Sport New Zealand is trying to stop information being released on the state of the government’s second-biggest Olympic investment and the findings of a review into Bike NZ’s capabilities.

Taxpayers will foot a bill of $70,500 after Sport NZ commissioned a review of Bike New Zealand – who received $18.3 million in public funding for its last Olympics campaign — and which looked at the national sport organisation’s financial state including the loss of its major sponsor, its relocation to Cambridge and high-performance planning in the wake of the sudden departure of successful national sprint coach Justin Grace and chief executive Kieran Turner.

Under the Official Information Act, Fairfax Media has requested details of the review. Sport NZ confirmed it had spent $70,500 on the review which was “initiated by BikeNZ” and “conducted by Martin Jenkins”, a domestic consultancy firm owned by former Sport NZ boss Nick Hill.

If you are in charge of spending tax payers’ money, you don’t get to choose what to reveal and what to keep secret. ¬† Read more »

Time to re-open the Darren Hughes affair

Labour and a journalist challenged Police refusal to release the full john Banks file and the Ombudsmen ruling that they should release the file.

The Herald reports:

The Ombudsman has ordered the release of MP John Banks’ statement to police over donations to his Auckland mayoral campaign.

However, the former Act leader’s statement will not be released publicly until after he has stood trial for allegedly filing a false electoral return for his failed 2010 campaign.

Police investigated alleged irregularities in Mr Banks’ campaign donations but no charges were laid.

[...] ¬†¬† Read more »

Has Chris Turney lied about his support by institutions?

Chris Turney and his now infamous Ship of Fools are looking more and more foolish as evidence mounts as to the real purpose and backing of their little trip of fancy to the ‘ice-free’ waters of the Antarctic.

When this debacle unfolded people started rummaging through their website. One page, that of their supporters, raised alarm bells.

It appears that taxpayers funds may have been used to promote this little warmist holiday camp on ice.

The Taxpayers Union followed up by contacting the New Zealand organisations listed and found some pleasant news…for taxpayers…and not so pleasant news for Chris Turney.

Following the¬†well publicised¬†case of global warming scientists being stuck in record pack ice in Antarctica (ironically the¬†expedition¬†was intended to study the dwindling sea ice) and the efforts to rescue them, the¬†Taxpayers’ Union¬†began enquiries late last year¬†to find out precisely how much taxpayers’ money the NZ¬†Government¬†“supporters” listed on the¬†exhibition’s¬†website¬†had contributed.

It appears that thankfully New Zealand taxpayers’ haven’t forked out the huge amounts feared. In fact, it appears that the¬†Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) is claiming at least one ‘supporter’ it doesn’t¬†have…

The¬†expedition’s¬†website¬†lists expedition supporters the Department of Conservation,¬†Landcare Research, and¬†the University of Waikato.

Despite asking the AAE leader (via email and his very active twitter account), and the media contacts at the University of New South Wales, no one would tell us how much kiwi taxpayers had contributed via the three agencies.

On 1 January we lodged Official Information Act requests with DoC, Landcare and the University of Waikato.

To DoC’s credit it responded by 8 January, stating that DoC were not participants in the expedition and therefore the information (i.e. what financial and non-financial support was given) does not exist. ¬† Read more »

Manufactured Herald story about Winston busted by Police

Winston Peters claims have been dismissed by the Police, essentially saying he has lied, and because he based his outrageous claims off of a Herald on Sunday article that they lied too.

NZ Police have received a number of requests for a copy of the Operation Carlton (“tea pot tapes”) investigation file.¬† An appropriately redacted copy of the file was provided to Mr Ambrose’s legal team in June 2012 as part of the disclosure process.

However, a number of allegations were made by Mr Winston Peters on 7 August 2013 in relation to statements made in the Police file.   After receiving further requests this week and considering relevant factors under the Official Information Act, NZ Police are releasing relevant extracts from the file.  These extracts are reproduced in full below.

Police confirm again that there are no references in the Police file to accessing Mr Peter’s phone records, nor is there any consideration of an application to access his records.¬† Read more »

We need to do this here

Parliamentary Services expenses remain outside of the Official Information Act. How can we trust that the troughers aren’t snuffling up stacks of our cash from the trough?

In the UK a tough line is being taken now with the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority being ordered to release information:

Westminster officials have been ordered to publish MPs’ expenses claims in full so the public can judge whether they are genuine.

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa), which oversees expenses payments, has been told it must disclose the receipts handed in by MPs to back up their claims.

The ruling by the Information Commissioner is a victory for The Sunday Telegraph, after Ipsa refused to release three receipts we had asked to see.

Graham Smith investigated its refusal and found that the authority had breached the Freedom of Information Act. He gave officials five weeks to hand over the documents or face prosecution for contempt of court.

Ipsa said it was studying the ruling. It must decide whether to appeal. If it concedes defeat and releases the receipts, it will set a precedent for the documents to be viewable by the public.

John Mann, the Labour MP who has called for greater openness on expenses, welcomed Mr Smith‚Äôs ruling as ‚Äúvery sensible‚ÄĚ and said MPs would be more careful about the claims they submitted if they knew the receipts would be displayed.

He said: ‚ÄúTransparency affects behaviour positively. Every time there‚Äôs an attempt to hide things, using whatever excuse, it creates the impression that there‚Äôs something wrong going on. Generally these days I think there isn‚Äôt, but the public have a right to know.‚ÄĚ

Ipsa was set up to restore public confidence following the 2009 expenses scandal, which led to the jailing of four MPs for fraudulent claims Рincluding one, Jim Devine, who submitted fake receipts for £3,000 of cleaning and £5,000 of printing.

Looks like another tough question time for Hekia coming up

Politician of the Week, Chippie will be like a rat up a drain pipe with this one.

The Office of the Ombudsman says it’s seeing a worrying trend of agencies seeking to exclude certain types of information from the application of the Official Information Act.

Chief Ombudsman Dame Beverley Wakem says it appears some agencies are routinely drafting new or amending legislation in a way that means people can’t apply under the act for access to information.

She says there have been incidents where her office hasn’t been consulted, one example being the cabinet paper on proposed charter schools.

Dame Beverley says the fact that her office was not consulted is either total ineptitude or a deliberate attempt to try to exclude the oversight of the ombudsman.

He‚Äôs got two weeks to work out his line of questioning, and after his performance over the last few weeks it is hard to imagine he won’t have questions about ‚Äútotal ineptitude‚ÄĚ or ‚Äúa deliberate attempt to exclude the oversight of the Ombudsman.

Beverly Wakem has given bugger all wriggle room on this one.

Schools must release data

ŠĒ• Stuff.co.nz

Schools have been ticked off by the Ombudsman in a stern letter, explaining to them their obligations under the Official Information Act. The NZEI should cease and desist from their illegal actions is essentially what she has told them:

Schools have been told to disregard the advice of a primary teachers’ union and instead release controversial National Standards performance information.

Chief Ombudsman Dame Beverley Wakem has written to all schools after some brushed off requests for the data with a pro-forma response provided by the New Zealand Educational Institute.

Dame Beverley said the advice NZEI had offered “conflicted” with that provided by the New Zealand School Trustees Association.

“In my view boards of trustees are entitled to rely on the advice conveyed by the NZSTA. However, boards that rely on the advice conveyed by the NZEI risk an adverse finding being made against them by an Ombudsman under the [law],” she said.

Schools that had acted, or were considering acting, “in accordance with the NZEI advice” should reconsider, she said.

Those that continued to refuse or extend release of information would face an investigation, which “may find that a board has acted unreasonably or contrary to the law”.

NZEI continues to advise schools to ignore the OIA

ŠĒ• the tipline

NZEI President, Ian Leckie,  in a letter sent to schools yesterday is still advising schools to ignore the law and refuse OIA requests. This is not only illegal but also unacceptable in a transparent society. The NZEI is now even lecturing the Chief Ombudsman over the matter.

Why is it the NZEI cannot follow the law?

Surely it is time for the NZEI to be de-registered for such blatant law-breaking:

 

Build them

The teacher unions are now set to go to war over the possibility of League Tables. They lost the war over National Standards and so their solution is to now try and prevent the data being analysed:

NZEI president Ian Leckie said this week that schools were deeply concerned that information could be made public – it will be subject to Official Information Act requests – and aggregated into crude league tables that would unfairly label students, schools and their communities.

He said they were not moderated and there was huge variation in the ways schools were implementing them. “It would be a case of junk information in and junk information out,” Mr Leckie said.

Any national standards-based league table would simply reflect the school decile and serve to name and shame some of the very schools that were working hardest to raise student achievement.

He wanted an assurance that the date would be “protected” from publication.

“Otherwise the Government will find that come May 31, schools will be reluctant to hand their student achievement data over.”

I think Mr Leckie will find that the public embarrassment of a poor rating compared with schools that did hand over data will ensure that Boards of Trusttee will comply with their legal requirement to submit data.