Company threatening to charge for OIA answers

Bev Butler
Bev Butler
The company running Dunedin's Forsyth Barr Stadium is threatening to charge for future responses to official information requests after being inundated with questions from stadium critic Bev Butler.

The move by Dunedin Venues Management Ltd was immediately slammed by Ms Butler yesterday, who said it was ''an attempt to keep me off their trail''.

''DVML needs to understand that they are spending public money and they are accountable for their expenditure.''

However, DVML finance manager Neville Frost said staff had spent more than 20 hours responding to Ms Butler's latest request for travel expenses accrued by former DVML commercial manager Guy Hedderwick.

The information was collated and released at ''significant cost'' to DVML, but without charge to Ms Butler, ''in the interests of transparency and public interest'', Mr Frost said.

However, the company would consider charging for future releases to ''lessen the burden to the ratepayer'', he said.

''We all know that DVML has limited resource and Ms Butler's frequent and fruitless requests put additional strain on the resource available,'' Mr Frost said.

''We can't afford that sort of time.''

The company had received ''at least a dozen'' requests from Ms Butler in the past two years, requiring varying degrees of staff time to address, he said.

It was difficult to calculate the exact cost to DVML, but there was an ''opportunity cost'' for staff, he said.

''They could be doing something [else] - like making some money,'' he said.

''We just can't go on spending all these hours on something that's not productive for our business.''

The Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987 allowed charges to be levied, but only within set limits.

Mr Frost said charges would depend on the complexity of requests, but the new approach would not single out Ms Butler's requests.

''It would be right across the board.''

 

Good on you Bev

Good on you Bev, for keeping up the investigation.

There is probably a fund or resource that some people use regularly to help them get access to those who try to shut them out from getting important information. Try the Ombudsman?

But keep on trying... Good on you Bev!

A cunning plan

Hype: good point - I see your cunning plan,  if they spent more time answering Bev's questions and less time doing whatever it is that they do to lose so much money we'll all be better off financially

Accounts

I applaud Bev Butler for her tenacity and determination. She is standing up to DVML and demanding answers that they are obliged to provide us with. After all, they wouldn't be here if we weren't being forced to pay them.

The more they play these games, the more we want to know why. 

[Abridged] 

Keeping secrets

These are the actions of an organisation that seems to have something to hide - if DVML was a part of the new open and transparent Dunedin local government Mr Cull promised us they wouldn't need to be asked for this information, they would have already provided it.

Instead we're left wondering why DVML is losing millions on operations when  we were originally told they would make a small annual profit - where is all the money going? it's a bit of a mystery, one they don't seem to be all that keen to clear up. Some of it seems to have been spent on Mr Hederwick going to the S taking in baseball games at our expense - I'm sure he wrote a trip report for his employers when he returned I look forward to its release.

I think that DVML needs to be asked more questions, not fewer.

Now where did I put that piece of paper?

"DVML finance manager Neville Frost said staff had spent more than 20 hours responding to Ms Butler's latest request for travel expenses accrued by former DVML commercial manager Guy Hedderwick."  Doesn't this suggest that their record-keeping is rather shambolic?  I'd have thought it was in their own interests to know where money was spend, how much, when, and what for.  It's not just Bev Butler who needs this information.  The organisation needs to keep track of its own incomes and outgoings if it is to operate efficiently.  

As for their time being badly used finding out these things because  ''They could be doing something [else] - like making some money,''   - the money made during Total Work Hours minus 20 is either extremely little, or is so poorly recorded that it appears that way.  Better, clearer record keeping would not only make supplying answers but would provide valuable feedback to the organisation itself - and those who fund its existence.

Chicken and Egg?

While I can understand the frustration of DVML in their "opportunity cost" of the requests for information, if the stadium project was transparent and made money in the first place then there wouldn't be many requests.

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