Ticked Off: The Official Information Act

Ever wanted the power to force the Government to tell you what they're up to? Well it turns out you can, and Mitchell Alexander is here to explain how.

Back in 1982,  the Official Information Act (OIA), was signed into law. It essentially allows anyone to request information from the government or any government organisation about what they're up to.

All you have to say are the magic words: "I request the following information under the Official Information Act". Technically, you don't have to use this exact phrase, but it can help clarify your request.

Whatever department responsible for that information then has to get you the information you requested in a (relatively) timely manner - usually within 20 working days.

If they do end up taking longer than that time, they must provide you with a reason.  

Examples of departments you can request information from include the police, all ministers in their official capacity and even the Office of the Prime Minister.

The Government may refuse to disclose information under the Official Information Act for a variety of reasons which are all outlined by the Office of the Ombudsman, the department in charge of overseeing the process.

Examples include; information sensitive to national security, questions that are too broad, or if the information simply does not exist. A full list can be found here.

Not every branch of the government is subject to the OIA, the judiciary are exempt due to the particular sensitivity of legal information.

However most information can be requested under the OIA, it's one of the principle ways in which our democracy is kept transparent.

So if there's anything you're even remotely interested in, send in an OIA request, because you never know what might come back.

Watch the video for Mitchell's full explainer.

Ticked Off is an ongoing series keeping you in the know with what's going on in the political world.

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