Responding to the Chief Ombudsman’s comments that the University of Otago initially refusing to release information regarding the cost of commissioning a sculpture was unjustified, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:
“Otago Uni refusing until pressured to share how it spent over $110k on a sculpture clearly shows a lack of respect for the taxpayers’ back pockets, but the issues go far beyond that. The way in which this obstinance was dealt with hints to much deeper problems across the public sector.
“When information might embarrass a public body, they can simply refuse to release it despite being legally required to do so. This can be referred to the Ombudsman, who may pass judgment six months or even over a year later. By this point the story has more-often-than-not died and those bureaucrats who stuffed official information down the back of the sofa get away with their ploy scot-free.
“New Zealand needs a faster, leaner Ombudsman’s office with some teeth to bring accountability back to the public sector. But that’s just the start, and major Official Information Act reform is needed to stop entire departments such as the Parliamentary Service from being able to hide behind the curtains.”