(Lack of ) transparency at the Reserve Bank

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:

Dear Michael

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.

Yours sincerely

Angus Barclay

External Communications Advisor | Reserve Bank of New Zealand

2 The Terrace, Wellington 6011 | P O Box 2498, Wellington 6140

  1. +64 4 471 3698 | M. +64 27 337 1102

www.rbnz.govt.nz

7 thoughts on “(Lack of ) transparency at the Reserve Bank

  1. Yes, an interesting response to something that would take less than 5 minutes (a slight exaggeration as it would probably only take 2 minutes). As we know, there’s a Documentum folder with all that info just sitting there.

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  2. In fairness, Angus didn’t quote my full request (below) but even so, one week perhaps:

    I am writing to request copies of all the papers provided to the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee, and Official Cash Rate Advisory Group, in preparation for the March 2005 Monetary Policy Statement. In particular, I am seeking all papers that would now be described as “forecast week papers” and any/all email updates/clarifications provided to the committee (whether through hard copies, or thru email groups such as MPCCOM or OCRAG, or their predecessors) from the start of the forecast week for that round to the release of that Monetary Policy Statement.

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  3. When i read your post I was sympathetic, but when I read your fuller explanation a different story emerges. Getting “all emails” will be difficult when its 10 year ago. Getting most may be easy enough, I do not know what their systems are (or were 10 years back) – but most govt organisations will struggle to to get “all email updates”. I suspect a more modest request for information would have seen you with plenty of material by now – but your request was not like that. You may even have been lucky to have not been asked to pay for what you seek.

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    • Martin

      It isn’t that hard. The request in respect of emails was pretty specific – it as for updates for two email groups in a specific 3 week window. Government agencies can’t destroy emails, and the Bank doesn’t. But if, perchance, it was particularly difficult, it would be quite reasonable to come back to the requester and say “this bit is easy, and the other is hard -can we understand quite what it is you are after so that we can refine the search”

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  4. Michael, very interesting…I am almost certain that no central bank in the world would give such information, Also, I have never seen any such request while I was in the RB. Good luck.

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  5. […] In this post, I discussed a request I had made for a limited range of papers that fed into the March 2005 Monetary Policy Statement (ie 10 year old papers).  On the last working day of the originally available 20, the Bank extended the request for up to another 20 working days,  I’m still waiting, and will no doubt hear something next week.  As a reminder to that Bank, that “as soon as reasonably practicable” is the law of the land. […]

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