Thursday, January 31, 2013

Forcing proactive disclosure

Back in 2010, I tried to get some information out of the Cabinet Office about Cabinet conflicts of interest. They refused, I appealed to the Ombudsman, and last year they were forced to release some information.

But it doesn't end there. That request has also forced some longer-term transparency:

The Prime Minister and Cabinet have approved a system of regular and proactive publication of information about the management of Ministerial conflicts of interest from 30 September 2013 as a result of the Chief Ombudsman’s investigation into the Cabinet Office’s refusal of a series of requests for such information. The Ombudsmen will have a monitoring and audit role to ensure the information that is released is a fair summary of the fuller details recorded by the Cabinet Office.


Dame Beverley considered that the degree of transparency necessary to maintain public trust and confidence can only be achieved by regular and proactive publication of a summary of actions taken when Ministerial conflicts of interest are identified.

The Prime Minister accepted Dame Beverley’s view that the public interest in transparency about how Ministerial conflicts of interest are handled requires a proactive disclosure regime. Public trust and confidence in the good government of New Zealand would suffer if there was insufficient transparency about measures taken to manage Ministerial conflicts of interest.

...which makes you wonder what he was doing when his department was fighting any form of transparency tooth and nail. But I'm pleased to see that he's been forced to admit the obvious: that secrecy invites suspicion, and that only transparency can create trust.

Of course, this is only from this year, so someone will need to go back and ask for last year's conflicts. But now we have a precedent for transparency, that ought to be a lot simpler.