How many OIA requests do government departments receive?

The blogger No Right Turn, prompted by the Reserve Bank’s OIA charging policy, lodged requests with all government departments, and the Reserve Bank, about how many requests they had had in the last year, and how many they’d charged for.  His results are reported here –  unsurprisingly, charging is very unusual.

This chart takes his data on the total number of OIA requests each department received in the previous year (mostly the answers are for the financial year 2014/15). There don’t appear to have been responses yet from Environment and Corrections.

OIA requests

Every agency has different responsibilities, some are much larger than others (and one has to be a little wary of how things are classified, eg there is a note on the IRD response saying that their numbers include only requests handled at National Office (ones from media, MPs, and those of a sensitive nature)), but the Reserve Bank does not stand out among government departments as overburdened by requests.  The Ministry for Women, for example, or the Ministry for Pacific Peoples –  both with fewer requests – are tiny departments with little or no independent power or responsibilities.  The Treasury, it turns out, had five times as many requests as the Reserve Bank in this particular year.

By contrast to MfW or MfPP, the Reserve Bank independently sets monetary policy (with a huge short-term impact on the economy and the sectoral distribution of incomes), it regulates banks, non-bank deposit takers, and insurance companies (and now directly impinges on housing mortgage borrowers), it is a major payments system operator, it takes large financial risks in international markets, and it issues our notes and coins.  In some ways, against the backdrop of this data, it is a little surprising that such a powerful independent agency has not received more requests over the years.




One thought on “How many OIA requests do government departments receive?

  1. Kiaora.

    Punchy Official Information requests

    Dr Eric Crampton
    Head of Research

    Insights 05: 19 February 2016


    “Blaming the thug for punching you is only one way of looking at things. After all, if a thug’s punch flies in the forest and your face is not there to meet it, there really is no problem at all. Should we blame the fist, or your face for being in the way?

    And in that spirit, it looks like ex-RBNZ economist Michael Reddell may be partially to blame for the Reserve Bank’s tightening up on access to official information under the Official Information Act.

    Alex Harris requested, by OIA, the new RBNZ policy on OIA requests. The RBNZ’s response noted an increase in the volume of OIA requests handled by the bank since 2010. They particularly noted 16 requests this year (presumably 2015) by Reddell, and his request for all of the papers he wrote while at the Bank. Processing requests is not costless, and with demand very high at a price of zero, cost-recovery may be a good idea.

    My opening example was tongue-in-cheek. But that kind of Coasean insight is often important. We have to think about where costs really come from. In this case, is the cost of OIAs due to the request, or is it due to the decision to handle requests in very costly ways?

    Reddell wrote rather a few discussion notes and memoranda while at the Bank and sought permission to use them, excluding one which he knew to be potentially sensitive. A low-cost way of handling that request would be to release papers that are no longer current, perhaps after a quick triage. A high-cost way is to go through each paper individually looking for reasons not to black things out.

    Where Reddell’s work focused more on bigger picture issues and where he did not deal either with the Minister or regulated entities, the lower cost route may have been the more appropriate. Work focusing on prudential regulation of banks and containing confidential details of bank balance sheets, by contrast, would require the higher cost route.

    The NBR’s Rob Hosking pointed out in January that the billions spent on bureaus’ information management systems should have made OIA retrievals cheaper, not more expensive. The decision to put simple requests through costly procedures then seems more than a little heavy handed.”

    Your most welcome 🙂


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