Official Information Act Workshop for HOM's

Head of ministries and government chief executives had their turn to learn more about the Cook Islands’ Official Information Act. More than 20 gathered at Crown Beach Resort yesterday to discuss and provide feedback on how the act has affected them since it was passed by parliament five years ago.

The workshop is part of a series of sessions jointly hosted by the offices of New Zealand and Cook Island Ombudsman. Cook Islands News has also assisted through its UNESCO JFIT project which aims to raise awareness of the legislation.

 

New Zealand Deputy Ombudsman Leo Donnelly said it was around this time that the act was starting to gain momentum within his country. “It took about five years for citizens, special interest groups and media to understand what their rights are.” Donnelly said issued raised included the ways people can request information from government ministries or agencies. “There is no need for a special process. You can ring up and ask for the information, it doesn’t have to be in writing,” he said. “You don’t have to specifically state the act because any request is deemed to be under the OIA.” He said they also discussed what the act covers which included contractors and the work they carried out for the government department.

Chief Executive of Cook Islands Tourism Association Halatoa Fua said sessions like these are a helpful refresher course on the complexities of the act. “We had two requests for information last year involving the process of our subcontracting work,” he said. “We released the information but needed an extension of the 20 working days as many of our staff were overseas at the time, but it was a good learning curve for us.” Fua said the organisation has set up a process with dealing with OIA requests and he’ll be debriefing staff of what he has learnt from yesterday’s session. “It’s important to have transparency as there are public funds involved.”

A workshop involving the media, MPs and head of ministries will be held today. 

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