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Hekia Parata quiet on OIA fudging

Wednesday 19 Dec 2012 10:03 a.m.

Hekia Parata (AAP)

Hekia Parata (AAP)

Education Minister Hekia Parata is dodging questions on a new investigation into Christchurch school closures after it was revealed officials were lying to schools about what they knew.

Ombudsman David McGee will hold an investigation into the Ministry of Education's consultation processes early next year, following concerns inadequate information was available to schools and their communities before decisions were made.

That was highlighted by the ministry's rejection of some information requests on the grounds the information would eventually be made public.

The ministry also made an "inappropriate suggestion" to Christchurch City Council that it should refuse an Official Information Act (OIA) request on the basis that "the information requested is not held by the council" - which it knew was untrue.

Mr McGee, however, accepted it was a misunderstanding of the OIA legislation.

Ms Parata's office declined to comment on the report, released on Tuesday, and referred inquiries to her ministry.

In a statement, the ministry's deputy secretary, Katrina Casey, said Christchurch staff were being reminded of their obligations under the OIA.

Guidelines may need to be clearer about transfer of requests, she said.

Despite staff asking the council to lie about what it knew, the ministry "[had] a process to ensure full and effective consultation", she said.

Labour says the OIA fudging shows the National government has encouraged a "culture of secrecy and suspicion within the public service"

State services spokesman Chris Hipkins said Ms Parata and her ministry were trying to hide the true extent of their incompetent handling of rebuilding Christchurch schools.

"After all the botch-ups and stuff-ups National has had in the recent past, it's clear John Key and his government are simply shutting down the flow of information in order to avoid public scrutiny."

The Government initially intended closing four schools and merging 14 others but it has backtracked on some of those decisions after strong protest from parents and teachers.

NZN

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