Possible inquiry into Callaghan Innovation as Labour crony appointment attempts to explain it all away

Much has been made about the use of fake emails to obtain information from an intransigent Callaghan Innovation. Now it seems there may be an inquiry: Quote:

The?NZ Herald?published evidence yesterday showing?people seeking information from Callaghan Innovation did not actually exist?and numerous email addresses from its purported members were directly linked to the group’s head office.

One single Taxpayers’ Union email address was linked to nine fake identities who filed OIA requests seeking information, including details later used by the lobby group to disseminate stories in the media.

Mr Williams claimed his organisation made requests using ghost names because an insider at the science research institute revealed the group’s requests were being treated differently to others. He said this was to avoid releasing information promptly.

Callaghan Innovation chairman Pete Hodgson told?Morning Report?releasing details of the Taxpayers’ Union’s OIA requests had been justified.

Mr Hodgson said it had been in the public interest to expose an “abuse of process” by giving unredacted details to the?New Zealand Herald.

He said the details confirmed the Taxpayers’ Union had used false names to send a “blizzard” of requests to the agency.

He also denied claims by the lobby group’s executive director Jordan Williams that Callaghan Innovation had stalled on handing over information] under the Official Information Act.

All requests by the group had been answered within the legal time limit stipulated by the Act and responding to the requests had cost $103,000, he said.?End quote.

Labour crony appointee Pete Hodgson is dissembling. If he were half smart he’d be blaming the previous government and Steve Joyce for the problems. But he isn’t, so now he must suffer for his dissembling.

The point is this: it is not illegal to to use fake names. Many people, including me, do, to ensure we get our requests answered. Malcolm Harbrow from No Right Turn points out the issues:?Quote:

Shock! Horror!?Someone is using false names to make OIA reqeusts!


Of course they do. So does every serious requester. In fact, I would be?extremely?surprised if the?Herald‘s David Fisher, who produced this article, hadn’t done it himself. As for why, the reason is simple: because there is a well-founded perception that agencies treat requesters differently based on who they are and the reason they believe they are requesting information. A request from a journalist or advocacy group may be delayed, transferred, or see as much information withheld as possible, while a request for exactly the same information from a random member of the public will see it speedily released. So regular requesters often pretend to be other people to get the information they are seeking.

Its a practice as old as the OIA itself. I recall reading an ancient article about the toxic days of the Fourth Labour Government, where people in one Minister’s office were having to make pseudonymous OIA requests to find out what other Ministers were doing. Nowdays, with email and FYI, its trivially easy. Make a throwaway account, file OIA request, wait 20 working days. Its only problematic if the agency is one which uses eligibility requirements as a barrier, or if you want to complain to the Ombudsman later.

Is it legal? The Law Commission noted in its?2012 review of the Act?that there’s no requirement for requesters to provide their real name, and agencies would have no way of knowing if they did anyway. It therefore made no recommendation on the matter. The Ombudsman is on record (in their?submission to that review?(Q45)) that there should be no requirement for requesters to state their real name. So its certainly not seen as a problem by those responsible for upholding the OIA regime.

In other words, rather than some weird and underhand practice, its a common OIA tactic, and likely used by the journalists themselves. Rather than investigating it, maybe the?Herald?should be looking at?why it is necessary, and campaigning for a better freedom of information regime, rather than persecuting those struggling to make it work.

(Meanwhile, the?Herald‘s investigation seems pretty dubious itself. They obtained the email addresses of requesters, though its not clear how, and then attempted to hack the accounts to learn their password reset emails. FYI is?on record as saying they did not provide the addresses, and I think there’s interesting questions to be asked about how the?Herald?did it…) End quote.

It turns out that Callaghan Innovation released the requesters’ email addresses. That is real murky too.

As is usual, David ‘Anal’ Fisher has made a mountain out of a molehill in his left-wing crusade against anyone who has different view to him. Obviously all the cats stuck up trees in Northland were recused before that intrepid reporter could rush to the rescue. Either that or Kim Dotcom has stopped his regular requests for hagiographic news stories.