ICO slams Mac’s ministry

| 01/08/2011

(CNS): In her thirteenth decision, Information Commissioner Jennifer Dilbert has raised serious questions about the commitment of the Ministry of Finance, Tourism and Development to the FOI law. Following the procedural failures by the ministry regarding a request made by Cayman News Service last year for a copy of a report about legal aid, Dilbert said the premier’s ministry was negligent when it came to the law as she ordered a redacted release of the report. Dilbert made a number of observations in a comprehensive decision and condemned the behaviour of government, pointing out what she said was the “unwillingness” by the ministry to obey the law.

“The severity of the procedural failures in this case lead me to question, as on a number of previous occasions, the seriousness with which the Ministry executes its duties and obligations under the FOI Law,” Dilbert noted early in her report.

“While understandable delays will sometimes occur, the extreme length of the delays in this case, and the apparent unwillingness of the Ministry to act in a responsible way under the Law, testify to an unacceptably negligent attitude towards legal compliance with the FOI Law that can only be condemned in the gravest terms,” she added.

In this decision the information commissioner covered a number of issues because of the way the request was handled, the length of time it took, the basis for the original refusal and the ministry’s failure to apply the law correctly.

“Access delayed is essentially access denied," Dilberts said about the report in a release on Monday.  "The FOI Law sets out strict deadlines for responding to requests to ensure that applicants receive a timely response.  It is simply not acceptable that an applicant should need to chase down a response from government.”

She pointed out that more than two and a half years have passed since the FOI was enforced and authorities are well aware of their responsibilities under the Law.  "I accept that processing FOI requests does take time and resources, an open, transparent and accountable government in the long term will result in better management and cost savings.” 

In this case, CNS first made the open record request to the Ministry of Finance, Tourism and Development for the Legal Aid Review Committee’s report in March 2010, when the document was first published, as at the time it was understood the contents would be informing government’s future policy on legal aid – a subject that had raised considerable controversy.

However, the ministry denied access to the report stating that it was yet to go before Cabinet for consideration and therefore had not yet gone to the Legislative Assembly and once considered by the country’s parliament it would be released. In May, when there was still no sign of the report, CNS made a second request but asked, if it was going to be refused again on the same grounds, that the information manager proceed directly to an internal review.

From that point on, however, despite reassurances that the report would be made public shortly the request seemed to get lost in the system ,and although CNS contacted the ministry several times to find out what was happening, the report remained under wraps and the ministry uncommunicative about its release.

In August, CNS also contacted the information commissioner’s office (ICO) to ask for its assistance but by January of this year there was still no response to the internal review request from the ministry, despite the ICO’s intervention. Eventually, at the end of January this year, after a further intervention by the ICO, the internal review was concluded and the ministry refused the document again on the same basis.

As the report was withheld because it had not yet been considered by Cabinet and therefore the LA, and CNS had been told on a number of occasions that Cabinet would be considering it “very soon”, we asked the commissioner to consider if the refusal to release the record was still lawful. It seemed to CNS that this element of the law had to have a reasonable time frame, otherwise a public authority could withhold important public information for endless periods by stating that it had not yet been officially considered.

In her deliberations Dilbert found that, according to the ministry submission, the members of the review team were appointed by the premier as the minister for finance and the report was submitted to him to inform Cabinet discussions and not for the Legislative Assembly.

“No evidence has been provided in the Ministry’s submission to support the claim that the report was created for presentation to the Legislative Assembly, or indeed to Cabinet,” she said.

Dilbert also revealed that the ministry had claimed that “a reasonable period” had not expired but noted that there was no explanation for what it considered a reasonable time and by then well over a year had elapsed.

“Given that it is now almost a year and a half since the date of the report, I consider that a reasonable period of time has long since passed for the report to be reviewed and considered by whatever body it was intended for. As a result, I am not satisfied that the ministry has provided sufficient evidence that the exception in section 11(2)(b) should apply…” she added.

Among the many issues raised and criticisms made of the premier’s ministry in this decision Dilbert also noted that public authorities have a legal duty to consider all exceptions or exemptions during the process of an FOI request and she noted that on this occasion the ministry ignored the fact that there was sensitive personal information in the document.

She stated that public authorities should avoid a carte blanche approach to exemptions without proper consideration of the entire record and all the possible reasons why all or part of a record should be refused or released. “I am particularly disturbed by the fact that the report contains quite sensitive personal information, yet the Ministry did not comment on this fact,” she wrote.

As a result she ordered the ministry to release the main report with names of individuals in two paragraphs removed and all of paragraph 94 redacted. She also ordered that certain appendixes could not be released because some contained sensitive information and others minutes on discussions made with an expectation of confidentially or as part of free and frank discussions.

Dilbert released her decision on Friday and gave the ministry 45 days to hand over the report or apply for a judicial review.

See the Information commissioner’s full report below.

Category: FOI

Comments (64)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Where is the UK? we need good governance this is the same thing that was happening in the TCI.  We need the UK to come in here and clean this house until 2013.

  2. Al Nomadi says:

    The Cayman Islands now has a new exonomic sector, we are now a Banana exporter. Could we therefore be called a Banana Republic?

  3. nauticalone says:

    Thank you Ms. Dilbert for standing up for "Good Governance"!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Premier Dilbert. The first woman Premier and head of government business. Sounds good to me.

     

     

  5. Anonymous says:

    Ministerial mismanagement.

    Mac, please read http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-14349136 and do the right thing.

    • The Philosopher says:

      It would be good if Mac "would" do the right thing!  But the other members of his party  must likewise do what's right. That is to  quietly and diplomatically call a meeting with Mac and let him know that for the good of the country, he should  resign voluntarily.  Otherwise they will be forced to cast a vote of no confidence against him in the House. If this is done then maybe just maybe the people of this island may once again regain some trust in those whom we've elected.

  6. Anonymous says:

    time for a march….. to the governors house!

  7. Anonymous says:

    So besides public shaming – what can be done about it?  What is the disciplinerary action of continued defiance and refusal to provide resports/documents?  What motivation is there for them to comply?

  8. Anonymous says:

    It escapes me that there are people who will vote for him over and over again knowing his track record. 

    • Anonymous says:

      Try devising a system which invites corruption, it would have some or all of the following:

      Freedom of info act which you could ignore

      Civil servants afraid of doing their jobs

      Lack of effective accounting systems, and no pressure on departments to adhere to the rules

      Auditors who get fired or ignored

      A political party subservient to one man

      A stranglehold on "parliamentary" voting as a result of a flawed voting system ((one man four votes!)

      A weak "head of state" (Governor)

      Well, there are lots of other things, but how many boxes can Cayman tick! 

    • Ubelievedat says:

      Ever heard the saying "birds of a feather flock together"

      Or "show me your friends and I'll tell you who you are"

      Well theseare true to life……………….just helping you understand why some people keep voting him back in

  9. village idiot of Absurdistan says:

    Congrats Jennifer for trying to operate your office as it is intended and for not bowing to political pressure. You show great strength, courage, and fortitude and are serving your country well. Cayman needs more role models/mentors like you.

    On a similar vein- is there still a Complaints Commissioner Office  or has McDinejad shut it down? Haven't heard a word from that office in… since Mac took over? 

     

     

     

     

  10. 1'm all over you says:

     

    And to think that Mr. Will Pineau and that chamber group don't want to pass legislation which gives women equal rights.  Aren't these the same  people who have been advising the Premier? Oh well!  What  does one expect? And to think that these politicians expect us to refer to them as honorable whatever!

     

    I refuse to address some of them  as honorable, for obvious reasons. But I think we should all recognize Ms. Jennifer as such, for her tenacity and for standing up for the rule of law and constitutional freedoms. Unlike those political eunuchs who defecate in their pants  when Big Mac gives an order!

     

    From now on I shall refer to Ms. Dilbert as The Honorable Jennifer Dilbert.  She deserves it!

    Go Jenny Go.

    • Wet Paper Caymanian says:

      22:51

      You sure put it right on the spot my friend. I hope that one day she is recognised as such by all of us officially. Must give my respect to Mr. Dilbert for taking care of family and what comes with it so that Ms.Jennifer can remain focus. And that she is !

    • Anonymous says:

      Jennifer, you really should consider putting together a group of people you know and trust who have the necessary credentials to act responsibly with open minds and run in the next election. People like you in office who care and understand good governance would be a breath of fresh air.

       

      Your platform could be for reforming government to evenly spread out powers and remove the present constraints in parliament. Fairness is all we ask for and deserve.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Dat shuga head boy from Wbay cyan ketch a break. He appoint her husband Senior Strategic Advisor wid cushy pay to develop some National Plan dat nobody hear nuttin bout for two years. Den he promote her nefew to Chief Officer, but still she refuse to bow her head to fools and corruption. Dat Chic Chic is one sexy mama. She get my wote, an anyting else she wont too……

    • Anonymous says:

      Please, please, whatever you want to say about that shi_ head, sorry, shuga head boy from West Bay  please show some respect for Jennifer and her husband. I very seriously doubt she wants anything else and perhaps not even your 'wote' from you. I have watched Jennifer's relationship with her husband I would say for the past thirty years. Jennifer's husband is a quiet, unassuming man with as dedicated a love for his beautiful wife as I have ever seen from any man on the face of this earth. Jennifer's strength, I am very sure, comes from her husband's everlasting love and adoration for her. God bless you, Jennifer and God bless, your quiet, peaceful, loving, husband. Love, and peace, and respect for all of humanity, and for our beautiful planet, will eventually rule on this planet. It is people like you and your husband who are guietly, and peacefully, and assuredly taking us in that direction.    

    • Anonymous says:

      Damn. I just noticed that he paid her brother $9,000 for consulting on Park Rangers for Barker's Park. In fact, he put a little poop stain on several families that might have opposed him with that nation building fund.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Where is the Chief Officer in the Ministry of Finance, Tourism and development?  What guidance and direction is he "PLANNING" on giving?  Perhaps an FOI aught to be made to see what his actions have been with regards to the FOI requests.

    • Anonymous says:

      I believe the MacDaddy has 3 Chief Officers supporting him. That makes it a lot easier to shuffle the blame around.

  13. AnonymousSick and Tired of the B...S... says:

    Said it before, and ready to say it again – ” Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”

  14. after you says:

    Jennifer  for Premier!  Wa di ya say guys?  Yeeeeeeeah!

    • YUTE says:

      Seriously folks, we take this as a joke. We talk about the horrors of this man, but we do nothing but continue to talk & complain. It has seriously reached the stage where we simply cannot acceot anymore. He is now defying the ICO, & it seems deliberate. He must go. He has no plans on stepping aside, therefore we must demand him to go. NOW, before it's too late!

  15. Anonymous says:

    Mrs. Dilbert….I am sure you are aware that you may be the next one the Mac-Attacker will remove from your post.  You know he hates it when people do their jobs as you do, he hates it when anyone disagrees with him or contradicts him, much less exposes him as your office has done!!!  I am so proud that you have bravely taken this bully by the horns and hope you know we appreciate and support you 100% in your efforts.    

  16. noname says:

    Go Jennifer!  It's people of your elk that we need to run during the next election.  You have my vote girl. 

  17. after you says:

    Wasn't it the our esteemed Premier who referred to the FOI as a scandal sheet some months ago? What a guy! 

  18. Anonymous says:

    How can you expect the Premier to abide by FOI when both the RCIPS and the Governor's office refuse to accept the rules for disclosure.

    Monkey see, monkey do!

  19. Anonymous says:

    nothing will be done, is above the law, the >>>>> system will not stand up to …,

    wonder why??  yet someone remove a file from gh that all others  have a copy of,

    request is made 4 investigation and it is sanctioned and completed very speedily.

    those in the know stand up,      help these Islands please. we will all end in disgrace if this madness is not stopped now

  20. Anonymous says:

    Poor Governance is alive and well in the Cayman Islands.

    Where is the FCO when we need them?

    “…pointing out what she said was the “unwillingness” by the ministry to obey the law…”

    This Minister is the same Minister that gave us that wonderfully ignorant phrase “Substance Over Process” echoed over and over by his UDP minions. 

    Premier Bush has always flaunted the law; because he thinks that he is the law therefore he cannot break the law.  He orders bars to remain open so that they can party on – I make the law says he – I decide when you close!

    ““The severity of the procedural failures in this case lead me to question, as on a number of previous occasions, the seriousness with which the Ministry executes its duties and obligations under the FOI Law,” Dilbert noted early in her report.”

    Add to Premier Bush’s violation of the FOI Law the violations of the Central Tenders Committee and other bidding processes, the Public Management and Finance Law, the Planning Law, Immigration Laws, Good Governance etc., etc.  Thanks to Premier Bush we are truly the Lawless Caymanus.

    Time to go MAC O!

     

  21. McCarron McLaughlin says:

    Ms. Dilbert is the only person in Government who isn't afraid to stand up to Mckeeva and his cohorts. It very refreshing to know somebody has got these pricks by their balls.

    • JJTA says:

      Mr. McLaughlin, what is the status regarding your attempt to see the register of interests of those within the Legislative Assembly? Have you seen it as yet?

      • McCarron McLaughlin says:

        After pressure from the media I was invited to see the register, I just haven't gone yet. I'm planning on paying them a visit soon and hopefully the register will be up to date.

        I learnt after my incident that all members of the house didn't update the register for 2011 which was manadated by law.

        They should have all been fined everyday that went by and that register was'nt updated, but like everything else they believe they are above the law.

        I'll keep the public updated on any dirt I dig up.

  22. I named my dog afteryou says:

    Lets have a contest for the most inept politicians in the region with a grand prize of a six month sabbatical in Somalia.

     

    Guess which Island would win hands down?

     

    And guess who  will be the Happiest People in the Caribbean? 

  23. JJTA says:

    At the public meeting in George Town McKeeva Bush said that many people would soon be "calling foul". He needs to be taken from the field of play, permanently. This may well be the one and only thing which he has said which is true.

  24. Anonymous says:

    any comment mr. governor?

    • Anonymous says:

      This could very well be the straw that breaks the camel's back.

    • Stiffed-Necked Fool says:

      For someone who is under Police investigation, this is just  "par for the course" as he wants everything to remain undisclosed!

    • JJTA says:

      Yes Mr. Governor, any comment? Can I help you look up the meaning of good governance? The TC scenario is unacceptable sir, independence with the FFB at the helm is unacceptable sir. Your performance thus far has been unacceptable sir. This is not "his" island, this is the Cayman Islands.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Oh what a tangled web we weave when we practice to deceive.  How often has it been reported that Mac dislikes (hates) the FOI law?  How often has it been reported that Mac intends to undertake a full review of the act creating the FOI commission?  How often has Mac been quoted as saying he intends to rewrite the FOI law (thereby severely limiting both the scope and authority of those empowered to administer it)?  Mac rules!  Those who elected him:  Stand proud.  Stand tall.  Stand by your man as Cayman sinks further into the abyss of corruption and autocracy.

  26. Anonymous1 says:

    And I thought it would be government slamming ICO because of their Mickey Mouse, not knowing who is behind the FIO requests policies.

    • Anonymous says:

      FYI "Anonymous 1", it is not the ICO policy to allow anonymous ("Mickey Mouse") requesters, it is in the Law which was approved by the Legislators.

    • Anonymous says:

      Why do you need to know who is behind the request? Is it so that you can victimise the requester? The Law says that the request may be anonymous.  

  27. Sancta Missa says:

    This was the plan to put Steve "Chewbacca defence" McField and Theresa "never been in Court in her life to anyone's recollection" Pitcairn in charge of all publicly funded defence work in the Cayman Islands.  Why would anyone question that?

    Which two names were they removing from the report and why?

    • Anonymous says:

      If the insinuation of this last remark is that names have been inappropriately withheld and with the approval of the ICO, then you are wrong. 

      The ministry neglected to notice that the report contains personal information that should not be released, in the first place, so it was up to the ICO to raise this exemption. Secondly, the personal information was withheld because it related to actual legal aid cases from the past, or because it related to people who gave their honest and frank opinion about the legal aid question in the expectation that this information was given on a confidential basis, or because the personal information revealed the names of private sector attorneys who provide legal aid services. Any names already in the public domain (as far as the ICO was aware) were of course not withheld.

      To see the full arguments, read the report from paragraph 80, dealing with the question of personal information.

    • Anonymous says:

      Who made up the Legal Aid Review Comm anyhow? Or was it a Comm of two?

      • Barely Legal says:

        I think that was the problem – the committee had some members who were not hand picked "Yes" men.

  28. Anonymous says:

    It is refreshing to see a courageous individual publicly demanding that the government obey its own laws.

     

    This is a significant step towards good governance in the Cayman Islands.

     

    Go Jennifer!

    • Anonymous says:

      yes…the governor could learn a thing or two from jennifer…..

    • Anonymous says:

      OH PLEASE…, as the saying goes "Mouth can say anything, once it learns how to talk".

       

      When i see the submitted application for Judicial Review supported by the ICO then i might get interested

       

      WEST BAY UNITED!

      • Anonymous says:

        Right On! Unite West Bay. In fact why not apply to become a separate republic from the rest of Cayman and have the Premier as your leader only so that the rest of us can begin fixing the mess he has made.

         

      • Anonymiss says:

        That's the root of the problem. West Bay is united and that is why this country is in this state of decline.

  29. Anonymous says:

    When will Civil Servants learn to stop protecting their Ministers and simply obey the law? We understand its an awkward position and while some people (and news outlets if the title is an indication) may recognise the problem the actual fault will fall on the Civil Servant(s) who didn't 'do their job to the letter of the law'. The sooner the ministries get that the sooner the politicians will get FOI.

    • Anonymous says:

      Protecting their Ministers?  More likely the civil servants are protecting their own jobs.

       

  30. Anonymous says:

    It is refreshing to read that someone in this current government is not in the pocket of McDinejad.  I would ask the dictator to count his dollars and then step down for the country's sake or the Governor must dissolve the assembly and have a new election.  If only the premier is made to step down, nothing will change, since Julichavez will still be taking instructions and cues from him.

  31. Michel says:

    Should we be surprised ? Ms. Jennifer it reminds me 1) Don't do as I do, do as I say. 2) The check is in the mail. 3) It's my island and more could be added. I have to say Ms. Jennifer that it's a good thing that YOU are there to at least keep us informed on what is definatly not being done. Not a good example from our " Leader".

  32. Jonny says:

    The rest of us break the law we get prosecuted, persons in the government break the law and they don't, what example does this set, and we wonder why we have so much blatant crime in our country.

    • Satirony says:

      6.40. Bulls-eye! Now that people are hurting financially they're getting very angry witnessing major decisions  being made for what they perceive to be reasons of financial self-interest. Anger can be suppressed only for so long. There will be changes. And as for our youth, if they can't look to their 'leaders' for integrity, where can they look? I don't usually quote the Bible, but the one about the mill-stone round the neck and being cast into the sea rather than corrupt little children, springs to mind.

    • anonymous says:

      That, my friend, is the plainest definition of TYRANNY….