Government agencies have until the end of June to publish their policies on information gathering activity and undertaking surveillance.
Following the inquiry into the use of external security consultants, the State Services Commissioner issued new model standards using his powers under Section 57 (4) of the State Sector Act 1988.
The new standards - Information Gathering and Public Trust - set out minimum expectations on how public servants should gather information for regulatory compliance and law enforcement.
For the first time in New Zealand, government agencies will have to be transparent about the types of information gathering they do, the reasons for it, what the information might be used for, and how the agency might collect it.
The Commissioner had requested assurance from public service chief executives and Crown entity board chairs that their agencies would be fully compliant with these standards by 30 April 2019. This has now been extended to 30 June.
The majority of agencies are on track to be compliant with the new standards by 30 April. However, some agencies need more time, especially those with multiple and complex information gathering functions.
“This is about ensuring government agencies use their authority to undertake surveillance or information gathering in a way that is lawful, so we need to get it right,” said Mr Hughes.
“It’s also about improving transparency and strengthening safeguards against inappropriate activity. Some agencies have signalled they need a bit more time to ensure their policies are robust and compliant with the new standards, and that is reasonable.”
There are times when it is appropriate for an agency to undertake surveillance and information gathering. This could include tackling tax evasion or investigating benefit or ACC fraud – especially if a person under investigation is suspected of deceiving or misleading an agency. Sometimes surveillance is the only way to resolve these cases.