Taylor keeps budget secrets

| 06/03/2013

argue.JPG(CNS): The information commissioner has upheld a decision by the governor's office to keep correspondence between the Cayman government and the UK over the budget secret. In her 28th decision Jennifer Dilbert found that the records in question were exempt under the Freedom of Information law as she said she was convinced that the documents contained “candid and robust discussions” that are protected under the law in relation to free and frank exchanges between officials. Weighing her finding against the public interest, Dilbert said disclosure of the records would not necessarily promote greater understanding of the budget processes or reveal any wrongdoing.

“The public has already been made aware, in some detail, of the processes for review and acceptance of the budget, and I do not believe that further promotion of accountability within government would result,” Dilbert wrote in her latest ruling. “Disclosure would also not reveal wrongdoing or maladministration in the budget process.”

The request was made last August by the local newspaper, The Caymanian Compass, for budget-related communications between the governor, the financial secretary, the former premier, the UK’s economic advisor and the OT minister during the time the Cayman government was doing battle with the UK over the 2012/13 budget. The budget deliberations with the UK were contentious, to say the least, and Bush even threatened to introduce an ex-pat tax in order to meet the demands the UK was placing on Cayman to reach a hefty budget surplus.

However, despite the controversies surrounding the budget and its ultimate delay of some three months, the back and forth between London and George Town around that time will now remain secret.

Dilbert said she considered that disclosure would “be likely to have a significant adverse effect on Government’s ability to carry out free and frank discussions to the benefit of the Cayman Islands, and disclosure would therefore not be in the public interest.”  The information commissioner also noted partial access could not be granted in a meaningful way.

This exemption under the law is there to allow government officials to sometimes be able to talk candidly to other governments or among themselves with an expectation of privacy in order to conduct public affairs. However, whenever the exemption is applied it must be weighed against how much the information is in the public interest. If there was evidence of abuse of office or any kind of wrongdoing in the correspondence in question, the exemption could be overturned, so this section of the law does not act as a free pass to civil servants to keep all records under wraps.

See the commissioner's full ruling below or visit the ICO website www.infocomm.ky.

Category: FOI

Comments (8)

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  1. CaymanFisting says:

    It appears that “Dilbert” denying the FOI request based on the information would “not be in the public interest.” due to the content being “candid and robust discussions” presents quite a slippery slope. Makes you wonder if there a set of checks and balances in place. If not it appears the door for potential corruption is WIDE open IMHO. Not suggesting the denial is in anyway the wrong resolution…..hoping someone can confirm the denial was not based solely on one individuals decision

  2. Anonymous says:

    Real bacrack master days things.  The ruler rules without being questioned. The ruler reports to the Empire on the plans for the plantation.

    So is there to be massive public sector cuts affecting civil servants and the public not to know? 

    i thought 1834 ha long gone!!!

  3. Anonymous says:

    If the money involved was not provided by the Cayman taxpayer, I can see how this has transpired.

    But let's be honest. Any dialogue regarding the Cayman Islands budget must surely be made known to those who fund it. That would be the Caymanian people.

    Do we have a democracy here or a dictatorship? Why do people accept this?

  4. Anonymous says:

    Like everything else an envelope will be left in Ezzards Truck some day. Then we will know.

  5. Anonymous says:

    One of the problems is that we never get to hear the actual "candid and robust discussions" about how to spend the public's money. Why is the public's business always conducted in secret? How come the governor and the politicians can't be "candid" with the public.What do they say to each other that they do not want the public to hear?

  6. Anonymous says:

    It's pretty horrible these days with big government doing whatever they please. They waste our money and then raise taxes and fees to steal more and somehow, it's all our fault.

    Any information regarding public money should be made available to the public…duh!

    Exactly who is paying the government? I am at a loss here.

    I am sick and fed up of this and I am sure I am not alone.

  7. Anonymous2 says:

    When we realize that they are more secretive than our government, and they are more about their own interest and agendas than any of our leaders in government, is when we have really open our eyes to the TRUTH. They don't want the public to know because they consider them null and void.  Let us start supporting our leaders more when it comes to respecting our heritage and civil rights, because I have a deep down feeling that something is up, something they are hiding that benefits them and not us. I have a hunch and many Caymanians better open their eyesand not play niave.

    • Anonymous says:

      You are correct, they want the caymanian peoples support when they come in and take over..