Below is the statement we provided to the NZ Herald in the lead up to publication of this article.
The Taxpayers’ Union is a heavy user of the Official Information Act, comparable to media organisations such as the New Zealand Herald.
The vast majority of public sector organisations respond to Taxpayers’ Union information requests quickly and transparently. However on occasion government bodies stonewall us – treating information requests from our staff and volunteers differently than requests from other organisations, or members of the public.
Callaghan Innovation is one of the worst. We had an insider approach us who disclosed that information requests from the Taxpayers’ Union were being deliberately sidelined as our previous investigations had led to embarrassing media coverage for the agency wasting public money.
Therefore, on rare occasions, our research staff have been forced to use personal email accounts, or have even encouraged our people to use pseudonyms, to ensure the public can have full and prompt access to information. This is one way to make it harder for officials and politicians to discriminate or play silly games with official information. The fact anyone would find it necessary to do this should disgrace these public entities.
The fact the media covered the information our requests revealed from Callaghan Innovation speaks for itself in terms of the public interest.
So, while we are not currently using the method, we do not rule it out, and if it takes this to get at the truth, we would expect the same from a good journalist.
Finally, we note that it appears many of the information requests made using the NZ Herald-sponsored website ‘fyi.org.nz’ appear to use pseudonyms – indeed, the anonymity of the system appears to be one of its key selling points.