A review of official information law has found many agencies are inexplicably outside its reach, and has urged that courts and parliamentary bodies become more accountable to the public.

A Law Commission report, "The Public's Right to Know", this week concluded that the main principles of the act were sound and it was central to a working democracy.

At the document's release, Law Commission president Sir Grant Hammond said the act had been a seachange for accountability in New Zealand.

But several factors had made the act outdated.

The internet era had made it possible to release vast amounts of information, the public were increasingly demanding more information from central and local government, and the state was more involved in commercial operations.

The commission also found that it was too difficult to know which agencies the act applied to, and the law should be expanded to capture new departments.

Lead commissioner Professor John Burrows said courts and parliamentary bodies should to be included in the scope of the act.

The commission's report emphasised that information about judicial functions would not be released, and judges' special positions would still be recognised.

The commission recommended the public also be able to scrutinise MPs' spending.

It said the Parliamentary Service, the Office of the Clerk, the Auditor-General, the Office of the Controller and the Ombudsman should have to release information.

Offices such as the Auditor-General would not have to release documents which impinged on their investigations.

The Justice Ministry and the Department of Internal Affairs will now develop a Cabinet paper on the recommendations, and is expected to act on them within six months.

Recommendations
* Create a policy of pro-actively releasing information.
* Extend the act to cover all agencies receiving public money, including courts and Parliament offices.
* Establish an Information Commissioner or oversight body.
* Restrict the grounds which allow agencies to refuse to release information.
* Create a public register of all agencies which the public could request information from.
* Adjust the grounds for refusing "vexatious" requests or requests which place too great a workload on agencies.
* Clarify when people should be charged for information requested.