Willie Jackson felt 'let down', 'surprised' by OIA issues in his office, but is taking responsibility

Willie Jackson admits being "surprised" and "let down" by processes in his office that led to delays with Official Information Act (OIA) responses but says he is taking responsibility.

The Minister for Māori Development was called out by the Ombudsman on Monday over a "trend of human error" in his office causing issues with responding to OIA requests as well as a failure in some cases to even respond to correspondence from the information watchdog.

The Ombudsman considered referring one case to the Solicitor-General but decided against it after an apology from the minister's office.

Jackson's office told Newshub the delays were down to staffing issues which have since been rectified.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, the minister said he "wasn't too happy with our office".

"I was let down in my office last year, that has been rectified and there's been an apology… I was as surprised as anyone to find out what had happened."

He said the office respects the OIA process but acknowledges it wasn't adhered to.

However, Jackson said ultimately it was his fault as the minister responsible.

"I think an apology was given from the office. But the reality was there was no intention, we've got good people in there now, the work was done by my office but we were let down by our own processes," he said. "I take responsibility for that."

The Chief Ombudsman said he had dealt with three separate complaints in the second half of last year about delays by the Minister for Māori Development in responding to requests for official information under the OIA.

Each of the three complaints involved the minister failing to respond to the requester within the maximum timeframe allowed under the legislation, the Ombudsman said. In two of the cases, the minister also failed to respond to requests from the Ombudsman for an explanation of the delays, a statement said.

"The minister told the Ombudsman that the reasons for the delays and lack of correspondence were due to 'human error', resulting from a failure to follow internal OIA processes," it said. "The minister's office advised that all OIA responses have since been moved to a digital platform that enabled tracking to prevent recurrences of this type of issue."

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins on Monday said he understood issues in Jackson's office had been resolved.

But he stressed his expectations of ministers. 

"I absolutely expect ministers to comply with their obligations under the OIA and where asked for information from the Ombudsman, I'd expect them to comply with that as well," Hipkins said. 

There have been "significant improvements" in dealing with requests across the span of this Government, he said.