Pension office abuses FOI

| 26/10/2011

(CNS): In her 16th decision regarding a denied request, the information commissioner has found that yet again the public authority in question had not followed the correct process and also used “spurious grounds” to try to withhold information. In a connection with a refused request made to the National Pensions Office, Jennifer Dilbert has ordered that the chief officer in question re-examine the entire request as she found that the senior civil servant did not conduct an adequate Internal Review of the request. Made one year ago, the request was for audited accounts and correspondence relating to employer pension plans from 2006 to 2010.

Local activist Billy Adam, who is also a member of the pension’s board, made the request not in his capacity as an official but as a member of the public as he says the information he wanted is crucial to the decisions workers should be making about which pension firm they wish their employers to use.

Adam pointed out that the compulsory pension system in Cayman was designed to be employee centric and it is down to workers in discussion with their employers to decide where the money contributed by both parties should be invested. In order to make those decisions, Adam says, the kind of information he is requesting should be freely available but it is currently being withheld.

Following the refusal of his request by the information manager in January of this year on the grounds that it would break the actual pensions law, Adam asked for an internal review, and three weeks later Chief Officer Mary Rodriguez responded by upholding the decision to refuse access. Adam then appealed to the Information Commissioner’s Office and after mediation failed to resolve the issue it proceeded to a hearing.

For the first time in one of her rulings the information commissioner declined to offer a substantive decision on disclosure and actually sent the request back to the public authority in question because, Dilbert said, she did not believe the records had actually been examined before the refusal was upheld by the chief officer, asking that the necessary steps to bring the National Pensions Office into compliance with its obligations under the freedom of information law be made.

The chief officer of the NPO now has 14 days to complete the review ordered by the commissioner.

Dilbert explains in her ruling that the actual responsive records were never produced during the hearing. “I am unsure as to whether the Chief Officer had sight of the responsive records prior to issuing the internal review decision,” the information boss said.

“Along with the Registrar of Hearings, I visited the NPO to get insight into the content and volume of records requested. The records covered by the request are numerous, and filed in a number of different places. They had not been identified and pulled from their respective files,” Dilbert added.

During her consideration of the matter Dilbert rejected the pensions office claim that the pensions law prevents access and said the NPO had to treat the request as an FOI request and provide access to the applicant, unless another legal exemption could be applied or public interest in withholding outweighs the interest in disclosure.

Besides criticizing the failure of the chief officer to follow the proper procedure, she also question the NPOs position that disclosure could constitute personal information and criticized the office for attempting to hide behind this part of the law.

“To attempt to apply the definition of a 'person' under the Interpretation Law to this case is contrary to both the letter and spirit of the FOI Law,” Dilbert noted. “I am disappointed that a public authority would try to withhold information on such spurious grounds, especially given that the FOI Law presumes disclosure, and the public authority is expected to release records unless an exemption or exception can be legally applied, and even then, still release the responsive record if it would be in the public interest to do so.”

The information officer stated that she had faced “tremendous difficulty” in obtaining and considering the views of the parties and not all of the responsive records had been identified and have not been examined to determine what information could be released.

Although the request covered over an estimated 100 files, the commissioner said that the “carte blanche” application of the exemptions cited by the NPO to all of the records was not acceptable, despite the size.

“The exemptions set out in the FOI Law are to be used only where a legitimate need arises to withhold disclosure” said Dilbert. “A public authority must identify and review records before making the determination that they cannot be released.”

Adam, who made the request, pointed out that if the pensions office was not seeking to hide the information the size of his request would not be presenting such a major problem to the public authority.

“It is not freedom of information that costs the country money,” Adam said, “but the efforts by authorities to hide things.”

Adam pointed out that none of the information he is requesting needs to be kept from public consumption as all of it is information that workers need when deciding how their pension money should be invested.

See full decision below.

Category: FOI

Comments (29)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    So are the pension statements that Civil Servicants receive worth the paper they are printed on?

    What are we to believe now, with these revelations?

    • Anonymous says:



      The National Pensions Office deals with private sector pensions. The Public Service Pensions Board deals with public sector pensions. This decision is in relation to the NPO, not the PSPB.

    • Anonymous says:

      What is a "Servicant"? And how much can i get for ten dollars?

  2. Knot S Smart says:

    If Ms. Dilbert was the Premier of Cayman we would be much better off!

    In fact if a woman was Premier the country would be much better managed!

    Someone take a hint please…

    If Billy Adam was in charge of the Anti Corruption team, then we would need to build a new prison.

    If I could reach the Chinese President by phone, I would ask him to please keep our gang, and instead send us back some fireworks so that we can celebrate him keeping our gang.


    • Anonymous says:

      Can we donate their return tickets to the NCVO in their telethon? That's a MUCH better use of public money (and we get rid of them too).

  3. Dreadlock Holmes says:

    Unfortunately, this scenario is elemenatary and not unusual.  Here we have the Pension Board, funded by the public, refusing to comply with a request by a member of the public in a vain attempt to protect Pension Administrators from scrutiny. 

    For their part, the Pension Administrators, also funded by the public (employees through their contributions), protect employers from scrutiny by the Pension Board when they neglect to forward their employee's pension contributions.

    The common thread of course is a failure for these entities to come to grips with the fact that they are hired by the public and or the public as employees, and it is they who should be protected.

    I applaud Mr. Adams and Ms. Dilbert for helping drag these hirelings of the public from their caves and into the light of full disclosure.

    • Anonymous says:


      Just for clarity; The Pensiond board is one of the only boards that aren't paid at all, and Mr. Adams is a member of that board.

      For the previous poster, the NPO does not deal with civil service pensions.


  4. Anonymous says:

    I think the Cheif office & FOI officer for the National Pensions Board should be held responsible for any cost that has been incurred by their reluctance to follow procedures. Tally it up and deduct it from their wages, why should the public purse have to pay for their short fallings. 

    • Anonymous says:

      And why should we the tax payers have to pay the full pension for public servanys, while the  the private businesses are being charged,and threaten to be trown in jail,  becuse they cant afford to pay theirs from their little profit ..if any. 

      • Anonymous says:

        This may be semantics, but my payslip says I contribute 6% to my pension and Government contributes a matching 6%. It just happens that the Government payscale and every job advertisement, contract, etc lists the NET salary, not the gross salary before pension. So on a technical note, civil servants contribute 6% to their pension and Government (you say taxpayers, but the financial services industry and foreign tax payers – tourists – actually directly contribute much more to Government revenue and in turn my pension account than you or I) contributes a matching 6%.


        Just to be clear, Government pensions are no longer defined benefit schemes. I pay into my defined contribution plan and when I retire the money that I have invested and the interest that money has gained (or lost, as it has the last few years) will be what I draw down from. I can't get back more than I put in, so there is no additional cost to the public purse in providing my pension than the 6% of my salary as long as I work. I'm waiting as anxiously as you are for the last of the old school crowd to be done with their hefty benefits. When these benefits were first proposed we could afford them and a comfortable retirement was meant to make up for maybe makingless money during your career (in the most extreme cases, have you ever compared the pay of a Government CFO to a private sector accountant, or a Crown Counsel to a private sector lawyer?).


        We can no longer afford defined benefit plans, even the ones that we committed to years ago. The decision of the current Government to not pay down unfunded liabilities is making a serious problem in the long run even worse. Yes, it's wrong that Government is able to "get away with it" for now, but it will eventually catch up to them. Government cannot avoid pension liabilities and civil servants have absolutely no chance of losing their pensions. Private sector workers, on the other hand, who are all on defined contribution schemes and who do not have the money in their pension account that legally belongs to them have little recourse. The businesses that carry out these thefts should be prosecuted by the DPP upon recommendation of the NPO. A private business is only brought to court after years of non-compliance with the pensions law and refusal to make payment plans to give employees and former employees what is rightfully theirs. These are the worst of the worst in the courts, not people who have temporarily hit some hard times.


        Finally, and most importantly in my view, payments into pension funds should not come from "their little profit ..if any". Pension contributions should be a cost factor in every business plan and fully accounted for. The same way you wouldn't count on your "profit" to pay your rent or CUC bill, pension contributions are a cost of doing business. The fact that employers are not only not paying their 5% but also taking the 5% from the employee's paycheque and not contributing that to the pension plan is disgraceful.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Are there no consequences for not following the law?

  6. Legal Seagull says:

    We need to criminalise the horrific abuse of public rights by narrow minded self-important civil servants.

  7. T.L. Haranguer says:

    The only people that are going to make money out of the pension plan are the 20 or 30 people who are been highly paid with your money to administer it. Everybody else are just suckers and will be lucky if they get 25 cents on the dollar back on thier money !

    • Anonymous says:

      04:41 you are so right, its just a matter of time before they have to scrap the damn scheem. lets follow Micky Hurlstone's plan. start a social security tax,

       Caymanians don't be fooled that the pension and health insurance are not a manatory and  compultry tax. we are already seeing up to 25% of our salary and profit from businesses sucked out from us…. through these private intities.

      What is so appaling, is that the Caymanian Government  was sucked in  to making the laws, to  belch up all this money to the private financiers. they are getting none of it….so sad…total distruction of the Caymanian  businesses.

  8. Anonymous says:

    There should be complete transparency of pensions.  No employer should be sheltered from its umbrella.  Let us all stand on a firm foundation.  If the employee does not consent to pension deduction, get rid of him.  If you can afford to comply with the laws of the Cayman Islands, move over or go back where you belong. Don't cheat the bread and butter – your custom or your hard workers – of your businesses.

  9. Anonymous says:

    fire everyone down to management is a new world of transaparency you nefarious dinasuars.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Go Billy. Go Jennifer. Hold their feet to the fire.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Well we can be pretty sure that their will be no political censure for at least the next 18 months. They just doing what the see the politicians do. 

  12. Dekcuf says:

    My God! I’ve got 15 years invested in this pension plan. If they won’t release information then it makes you wonder who is trying to hide what? I’m fearing the worse!

    • T.L. Haranguer says:

      Get your 35 thousand dollars out, buy a house or apartment rent it so that you will at least have something when your pension plan fails.

      • Anonymous says:

        04:35 good idia. thanks to Ellio for giving us the opportunity to do so. Ellio is not stupid he is bam boosed every day from people that cant comply with this atrosity, that was  leveled on the businesses.

        • Anonymous says:

          Given your atrocious spelling and lack of grammar, it is no surprise that you would support an uneducated loudmouth clown like Ellio.

      • Anonymous says:

        Sad news for you. There are many many apartments and homes locked up because the place is saturated. Think of something else to do with it after all its your money and no one should be able to tell you what to do with it. Some folks fail to realize that the pension money belongs to us and when expensive gifts elaborate lunches  are bought from funds thats unfair. Some people get involved because its easy money.

    • Anonymous says:

      I'll bet you, you wll be very surprised  19:20  it's a falacy…that pension, it will never work in a none taxed country. the players knew it along….it wasdesign  just to rip off more caymanian businesses.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Freedom of Information….. Yes, Yes, Yes!  The truth will set you free!  Or put your ass in jail.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Good outcome, but tell me something, when do we, as employees get to decide which pension fund our  money goes in?  Because its always seemed to me, just as with medical insurance too, that the employer tells the employee who the pension and medical insurance is going to be with and the employee (of they want to keep their job) has no choice but to go with the employers choice.

    • Anonymous says:

      Bullshit 15:59

      No one is telling you where to invest your savings. the onus should be on both parties to lodge your money whereever you want to .( you notice i called it savings, because that is what it is )

      you can take it to any of the financers managers you want.

      Stop putting the Employers in a bad light. you are the one going to benifit from your savings.not the employers or their children, they have to work their ass off to pay their bank loans and school their children, for the rest of their lives.

  15. Anonymous says:

    any comment mr governor?

  16. Anonymous says:

    Dilbert is about the only person actually enforcing the law in Cayman. Where is the AG (attorney general)? Was there a government lawyer actually willing to defend the NPO's position or did the NPO do it pro se?