Port told to release GLF info

| 16/12/2011

port office.JPG(CNS): The Port Authority has 45 days to release information relating to talks between it, the government and the former proposed cruise port developer GLF after the information commissioner ruled that the documents were not exempt under the Freedom of Information law. The port had tried to withhold the documents on the grounds that they would “prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs” if they were made public. However, Jennifer Dilbert said that while sections 20(1)(b) and 20(10(d) were relevant in the case, the public interest test must still determine whether records should be disclosed, and given the importance of the port project she ordered the release.

In view of what she described as the need for government to be accountable for its actions and decisions, especially in the light of the high costs involved in the port expansion project, Dilbert ruled that the balance of the public interest weighed in favour of disclosure in this instance.

“The port expansion is an exceptional capital project of Government, which has been called “the most expensive‟ of its kind in the Cayman Islands to date, involving construction costs of reportedly close to $200 million. As such, in my view it is entirely proper that this project and the decisions relevant to it should receive very close scrutiny from Government and the general public alike,” the information boss said.

This latest decision by the commissioner relates to an application for all notes and/or minutes of meetings between the government and the Port Authority dealing with the GLF talks on the cruise berthing project in George Town. The application was made earlier this year but refused by the authority on the grounds that releasing the information would inhibit the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation or prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs.

But Dilbert pointed out that these possible reasons for exemption are still subject to a public interest test. 

In her decision Dilbert reveals that the Port Authority Board was reluctant to release the minutes of meetings as a result of “fear of being labelled or penalized” for what was discussed and decided, which the commissioner noted was irrelevant. She said that a public authority, including the members of a board of directors, must be willing to accept responsibility for its actions and decisions.

“This is the essential meaning of governmental accountability and transparency, which, as section 4 makes clear, are some of the fundamental principles underlying the system of constitutional democracy, central to Freedom of Information and a healthy democracy,” Dilbert said.

Pointing to the Port Authority’s claim that the disclosure would give an advantage to the individuals or groups which made the request to which they are not entitled, she said this also reflected a bias against openness on the part of the authority. Dilbert said that this was precisely why the FOI law does not require that an applicant provides his real name, or reasons for the request except where the application is for personal information.

“It should be irrelevant whothe applicant is or what he will use the information for. A record is either open, or it is not, just as government is either transparent, or it is not,” she added as she ordered the Port Authority to release all of the documents requested by the applicant.

See full decision below.

Category: FOI

Comments (36)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    This slavish worshipping of Mrs Dilbert is rather embarrassing. She is not alone in her office. She has extremely capable staff, especially her expat deputy. Let's just be content with the results of all of their work but stop short of the Dilbert for Premier stuff. Most people have no idea of the sort of candidate she would make.

  2. Anonymous says:

    The way I see it, the 2 people that are qualified and equipped to run this country are Jennifer Dilbert and Ezzard Miller.   Please Please Please enlist others like Austin Harris,  Kent McTaggart, Wayne Panton, and form a third party that Caymanians and Cayman can be proud of.  Respect to you Ms. Dilbert!!!!   

  3. anonymous says:

    When are we going to see what the Chinese are proposing in Downtown???

    The Caymanians need to understand and review this before its agreed to by our government.

  4. Absurdistani says:

    Gov Taylor, please take a lesson from Mrs. Dilbert. This is called ensuring good governance.

  5. Public Interest says:

    Let's get real here.  We live in a country where the Premier is under investigation in relation to allegations of bribes being paid in respect of large scale development processes.  Regardless of whether there is anything in these allegations or not, good governance would require absolute transparency in large scale public contracting.  No matter how honest he says he is, or indeed may well be, we cannot be expected to just accept Mac's word right now.  So why wait 45 days?  Why say "No" to the request at all?  Can we please have the information now?

  6. Anonymous says:

    Why, oh why, did GLF not pursue their case in court so that what really went on, could have come to light much sooner, so that the public would know exactly what had happened and what our so-called leaders were doing and why.  This country would have been better, because once we knew what the problems were and the extent of it, then we as a country could make an informed decision to fix it for a better future, even if it meant we would have to change our leaders and replace them with those who know how to run a country properly.   For far too long and for far too stupid, self-serving reasons, things get swept under the rug in this country and do not come to light, they are kept hidden by those who have the most to lose, and those who are too cowardly to speak up for fear of intimidation, while the people continue to be kept in the dark as to what its own elected government is doing and their disrespect for the people by refusing to be transparent and accountable for their actions.  GLF, shame on you for taking the cowardly and easy route.  Port Authority, shame on you for keeping things secret, you and the Board have a responsibility to serve this country's best interests, not those of elected politicians and not those of your individual Directors.  Directors have a heavy responsibility and you are not there to protect yourself from lawsuits, you are there to act for the country, to make decisions that are ethical and right for this country, and if you were doing so in the first place, then there would be no reason for anyone to sue you.  UDP, shame on you for refusing to grow a pair and stand up for your people who elected you, when you see nonsense being perpetrated in your midst.   It took a woman, a brave one at that, to champion the people's cause and insist on complete disclosure of all facts.  As for madame deputy, you do your country and your gender a disservice by your passive silence.  I could say the same for the speaker of the house.  But mostly, all you MEN in the Government, the Port Authority, and GLF, you should all be ASHAMED of yourselves. 

    • Commuter says:

      What obligation diud GLF have to us?  They were cheated, asked for compensation, got it.  Why do they have any element of blame here at all? What are you suggesting – that as well as being stiffed on their contract they then had an obligation to incur further legal fees just so we could have the benefit of finding out what happened?  Litigation is not free, and even if you win you never recover all your costs.  I wasn't aware that they were the ACC  or the Auditor General – you should be asking those Cayman insttitutions to protect Caymanian interests, not some overseas contractor who made the mistake of thinking they were goig to get a fair deal.  And what does gender have to do with it? 

      • Anonymous says:

        The poster was making the point that the ruling party and the Port Authority Board members are predominantly dominated by males, and it took a woman to show some balls and demand that which is right for the country i.e. transparency in how decisions are being made.   The poster was also pointing out that GLF's settling it quietly meant the country would never get to know what had really gone on behind the scenes and the people of the Cayman Islands would continue to be kept ignorant of certain details.   Sure, everyone has their own best interests to protect and that includes GLF, but that still does not mean that it is right that the country continues to be kept in the dark about how its leaders go about their business.  That is the main point of the post and by the fact that most people gave it thumbs up, shows that most of those people feel the same way. 

    • Kent McTaggart says:

      I feel your pain, as I feel much the same way! However I do believe you do not understand what the rolls of some of the entities you have lashed out at are.  You have to consider what each of the entities charter is, and then you have to consider who they are actually legally responsible to.  When you take those into consideration, I think you will find that GLF did what was prudent in their situation as a bird in the hand is much better than one in the bush (or courts in this case).  Any lawyer will tell you that although the evidence may look rock solid; the court may find a completely different conclusion than the one you are envisioning with your cast in stone case.  As for the Port Authority Board, although I have my personal thoughts as to their ethics, you must also understand that they are not the government and are not the stewards of good governance, rather they answer to the ones that really do hold the onus for this situation, and that is the Government (the UDP). 

      I personally find it completely shameful that the details of Caymans largest deal are not even knowledge that is shared with the rest of the legislative assembly (PPM and independents included).  How can these ignoramuses know what is best for the "people", or what the "people" what, when they don't share information and take input from our representatives, regardless of party.  I am sickened by the lack of PPM's "manliness", and applaud the efforts of Mr. Miller as it seems he is the only one that is screaming at the top of his lungs "Give us the facts!!!!!!"

      As for the speaker… I simply see pawns that are being played; they have no backbones as the puppet master is completely controlling all the strings.

      But I do want to add, that the one entity you neglected to mention is the people of the Cayman Islands, myself included, as we need to be willing to risk everything if we want to save anything.  And that is a position that I simply do not think is going to happen, and I know the blood sucking leadership of this island blieve this to be fact.  Sadly I fear they are correct.

      So in closing I say even if you are 100% justified and correct in your facts, before you bash the hell out of anyone grow the kahonies to use your identity to put weight to your words, as without it, you are simply another front porch do nothing that is simply flapping your gums.

    • Anonymous says:

      The shame belongs exclusively to Cayman.


      GLF is now minimizing their cost and risk just as any sensible company would do. There is no shame in that.

    • Empty Chair says:

      Anon 05:21, I agree with you, but do you really expect them to release all the information? Only what they want the public to see will be released, & the rest has already been shredded & in Mount Trashmore.

  7. Dreadlock Holmes says:

    Detrimental to the effective workings of publicbusiness….if the information is then made…..public?

    I'm a little confused by this.

    Does it mean… that when things are done in the public interest… the public should not know about them?

    Or how the desicions were made?

    Or why??

    Well EXCUSE US

    Reminds me of the saying:  "There's no reason for it. It's our policy"


  8. Absurdistani says:

    Premier? Dilbert for Governor!

  9. BOTC says:

    really now?………….


    why wasnt this infor release immediately after the GLF contract termination?


    why dont you (FOI) release HOW, WHO, WHY, WHEN and WHERE the particulars of the hidden arrangement of the receipt of the $3 the premier miraculously received and whether that was the ENTIRE ABSOLUTE TOTAL given

  10. Anonymously IRON CLAD says:

    45 DAYS???… That's just way too long… XXXX

    None the less, plenty KUDOS to you Jennifer. You are our heroine.

    • Chris Johnson says:

      Things are beginning to add up now. Maybe the FOI will tell us why certain directors of the Authority resigned or were fired. In addition of course the AG having noticed that more red flags surround this matter than at the annual meeting of matadors in Madrid, may well have something of interest to tell us.

    • Arff says:

      Their filing system is not too good. They need 45 days to find it and make sure it all gets into the shredder before turning over the empty file jackets.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Good result but I'd be a bit more impressed if the ICO appeals email was working and not generating  this message –

    This is an automatically generated Delivery Status Notification.

    Delivery to the following recipients failed.



    CNS: Try this one info@infocomm.ky

  12. Anonymous says:

    This is very important step towards good governance. Well done Jennifer!!!


    It will interesting to see how the ruling's enforcement will proceed.


    I expect that certain shredders, both electronic and physical, might be working overtime over the next 45 days. I hope that some forensic technical experts are brought in to troll through the email archives to resurect any deleted emails.

    • Stiffed-Necked Fool says:

      If the Info is destroyed, what is there to be released and we all know that this is what will happen as what has frequently happened since The First Cayman Bank XXXX days!

    • Pitta Patta says:

      I am very very disapointed that GLF settled with government out of court & did not follow thru with their planned lawsuit, because it would have been very interesting & revealing the information that would have come to the publics attention if a court case had gone ahead. WOW!

  13. Anonymous says:

    I'm sure the information revealed will be VERY interesting indeed!

  14. Anonymous says:

    We are very fortunate to have Mrs. Dilbert in this crucial position!  She has shown the intelligence and strength of will that are absolutely necessary to stand up to those who prefer the truth remain hidden behind walls of bureaucracy and/or b******t.

    In the years to come, the value of what Mrs. Dilbert is doing now will become more appreciated.  By upholding the spirit and the letter of the FOI law, she is helping set the stage for the Cayman Islands to achieve truly accountable, transparent government.

    Thank you Mrs. Dilbert!

    • Anonymous says:

      She has more balls than all the men put together who are supposed to be serving this Country's best interests.  If you want a job done well, give it to a woman – women generally gets things done and they do it well.  And they don't get all hot and bothered by position and rank, most women do what they feel is ethical and fair and in everyone's best interests.   Jennifer Dilbert for Premier !

  15. Knot S Smart says:

    If an entity pays a substantial bill for our Govt does that give that entity the right to expect favourable treatment in the future?

    And if that entity is at the same time negotiating for a deal with government – is that not 'blatant corruption' on the part of our Govt to accept the gift, as well as those giving the gift?

    Do we then arrest our Govt? or the people who did the transaction on behalf of our Govt?

    Or just pretend that it is a normal transaction?

  16. B.B.L. Brown says:

    Three cheers for Jennifer Dilbert!  I was beginning to think that perhaps the FOI law just applied to mundane things of no importance.  It is interesting to see that she also stated, "that a public authority, including the members of a Board of Directors, must be willing to accept responsibility for its actions and decisions."  And I say, "ABSOLUTELY!"

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes, three cheers for Jennifer Dilbert. It is time we all understand that McKeeva's Gowerment is actually the Cayman Islands' Government.

    • Anonymous says:

      I only wish she would run in next election!

  17. Anonymous says:

    This is fantastic news. It might not be too late after all. the Premier and Folio will resist this one to the max. WE want to know the truth and hold them to the 45 days. No one should be above the law.

  18. Polly Tricks says:

    Do any of these bodies ever just say "Yes here is the information" or are they all so self-important?

  19. anonymous says:

    The fat lady beginning to sing….!!!

  20. Anonymous says:

    Well done, Jennifer! It's like prising food from the jaws of a starving conger eel.

  21. Anonymous says:

    This ruling is a significant step towards good governance.


    Well done, Jennifer.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Thank you Jennire Dilbert.  This government may not want transparency but you are holing them to it.  Thank you on behalf of Democracy.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Mrs. Dilbert for premier . . !