Cosgrove slams 'unacceptable' delay
Christchurch Earthquake 2011
The Earthquake Commission (EQC) has been accused of breaking the law by taking more than 150 days to answer a formal information request.
Clayton Cosgrove, the Labour party's EQC spokesman, this week confirmed Chief Ombudsman Dame Beverely Wakem was investigating the "unacceptable'' delays and was taking the matter very seriously.
He met personally with Wakem on Tuesday and followed that up with a formal letter of complaint to her office.
Cosgrove took on the original request filed by the Wider Earthquake Communities Action Network (WeCan) after it was told it would cost $24,000 to complete.
As an MP, Cosgrove is entitled to OIAs free of charge. He lodged an almost identical request to the original WeCan request on July15 but said he had faced ongoing resistance to getting the information.
WeCan's request featured 83 questions about EQC's processes and decisions after the Canterbury earthquakes.
It asked EQC how it came to appoint Fletchers as its main service provider and how many homes in each land category had been repaired.
Cosgrove accused Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee and EQC management of deliberately avoiding the release of the requested information.
It was not just him but ordinary "earthquake victims'' that were being deprived of important information they were entitled to.
"Their (EQC's) default is to drag the chain and ultimately break the law,'' he said. Under the Official Information Act, EQC can ask for an extension within the first 20 working days of receiving a request.
Cosgrove said Brownlee should "get off his chuff and actually comply with the law because you and your department are not above the law".
The ongoing delays were symptomatic of the "dysfunctional'' way EQC operated, he said. "This sort of delaying tactics are not helping anybody.''
Cosgrove said he had "great faith'' in the Office of the Ombudsman and promised there would be action.
"This just adds to the litany of dysfunctionality and [is] more evidence that this department is not working for earthquake victims.''
An EQC spokesman said it was no secret that the commission has struggled with a large number of OIA requests.
"This is a very substantial request involving the consideration of a large amount of material and the deployment of significant resources in an OIA team that has many customer requests to process."
"We estimate that this request has taken more than 1200 hours to process to date. We are doing our utmost to deal with this in a timely way, but the right is always available to take any concerns up with the Ombudsman.
May 13, 2013: WeCan lodges its Official Information Act (OIA) request
July 15: Cosgrove lodges his almost identical OIA request
July 25: EQC extend timeframe to September 9
July 31: EQC transfer part of request to another Government department
August 23: EQC extend timeframe to October
November 7: Cosgrove rings EQC customer complaints resolution manager Clive Lilley for update on request. Gets no feedback
December 5: Cosgrove arranges telephone conference with Lilley for the next day
December 6: Cosgrove receives message saying Lilley would not discuss the request with him
December 11: Cosgrove lodges formal complaint with Chief Ombudsman.
Source: Parliamentary Office of Clayton Cosgrove MP
- © Fairfax NZ News
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