On Friday, I highlighted Whanganui District Councillor Michael Laws' refusal to disclosing his emails under the LGOIMA. Laws seems to think the law is absurd - a position he expressed by asking "What next? Text messages?" Meanwhile, in the UK, that's exactly what Ministers are being instructed to disclose:
Guidance to be published by the Cabinet Office in the next few weeks is expected to confirm that “back channels” used by ministers and advisers to communicate with each other are not exempt from FOI legislation.
The new advice raises the prospect of private communications between the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, and other ministers, being made public for the first time.
Previously ministers and their advisers had considered that the FOI Act only to apply to messages sent through a departmental email address.
However The Daily Telegraph understands that the guidance will make clear that messages sent over private email accounts or text message will now be included.
One FOI expert said that the ruling means “you can’t escape scrutiny of FOI by using some back channel like your wife’s email or a text message”.
Meanwhile, as I pointed out on Friday, the law here is crystal clear. Both the OIA and LGOIMA state that information held by a person in an official capacity is deemed to be held by the official body they work for, and is subject to request. So it doesn't matter how you send a message - text, email, carrier pigeon - or what account you use. If its sent in an official capacity, then its official information, and you have to disclose it if asked. Its that simple.