MPs must not be excluded from Official Information Act reform
The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is calling on the Government to reform the Official Information Act (OIA) to include the Parliamentary Service as an organisation covered by the Act.
While the focus in recent days has rightly been on the disclosure of Government business under the OIA and lobbying rules, there is a similarly glaring problem with the current OIA: The explicit exclusion of the Parliamentary Service. This means that there is no accountability for how individual MPs are spending taxpayer money.
In 2020, the then Justice Minister, Andrew Little, announced that the OIA would be rewritten in association with Chris Hipkins who was Minister for State Services (Open Government) at the time. But almost three years later, New Zealanders are no closer to having fit-for-purpose information laws and the process continues to be abused.
The Taxpayers’ Union believes the scope of OIA should be expanded to include all MP expenses alongside the introduction of a searchable database similar to that published by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority in the United Kingdom.
Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, says:
“For a country that claims to have one of the most open governments in the world, MPs’ taxpayer-funded expenses through the Parliamentary Service are surprisingly opaque and completely unaccountable.
“We often hear and see examples of MPs spending taxpayer money in ways that are potentially inappropriate but have no real way to follow it up because the Parliamentary Service is protected by the Act. There is no valid justification for this.
“In the UK, for example, there is a fully accessible and searchable online database that publishes every expense claimed for every MP. Why can’t we do the same?
“Comprehensive reform of the OIA is long overdue and this change would help restore some of the public’s trust that has been eroded in recent times. In the meantime, we are calling on individual MPs to lead the way and voluntarily publish their own expenses before a more comprehensive system is in place.”
The UK Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority MP expenses register can be found at https://www.theipsa.org.uk/mp-staffing-business-costs/your-mp