I’ve mentioned on a few occasions that the Reserve Bank is much less transparent about monetary policy, and especially the process behind the final outcomes, than it likes to represent.
A good example is the email below that I just received. I requested copies of papers relating to the March 2005 Monetary Policy Statement. To be clear, that is documents relating to a monetary policy report from 10 years ago. It is hard to conceive of what specific or general ground under the Official Information Act the Reserve Bank could have for wanting to withhold anything from that long ago, or for why it would have taken more than 20 working days to gather and look through the material (or, indeed, why they would realise this difficulty on the very last day on which they could respond to the first request).
No doubt, the Reserve Bank is no worse in this area than many other government agencies. Fortunately, the Ombudsman is currently looking into the operation of the Official Information Act.
The key principle of the OIA is that information shall be made available unless there is good reason for withholding it. The purpose of the Act is really nicely expressed as follows:
The purposes of this Act are, consistently with the principle of the Executive Government’s responsibility to Parliament,—
(a) to increase progressively the availability of official information to the people of New Zealand in order—
(I) to enable their more effective participation in the making and administration of laws and policies; and
(ii) to promote the accountability of Ministers of the Crown and officials,—
and thereby to enhance respect for the law and to promote the good government of New Zealand:
(b) to provide for proper access by each person to official information relating to that person:
(c) to protect official information to the extent consistent with the public interest and the preservation of personal privacy.
And here is the email:
On 2 April 2015, you made a request under the provisions of Official Information Act section 12 seeking: All papers provided to the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee, and Official Cash Rate Advisory Group, in preparation for the March 2005 Monetary Policy Statement.
Meeting the original 20-day time limit would unreasonably interfere with the operations of the Reserve Bank. Accordingly, and under the provisions of section 15A(1)(a) of the Official information Act, the Reserve Bank is extending by 20 working days the timeframe for a substantive response to your request.
You have the right, under section 28(3), to make a complaint to an Ombudsman about the Reserve Bank’s decision.
External Communications Advisor | Reserve Bank of New Zealand
2 The Terrace, Wellington 6011 | P O Box 2498, Wellington 6140