FOI tangled in pension issue

| 22/12/2013

(CNS): Jennifer Dilbert’s final ruling on a freedom of information dispute after five years as the information commisssioner has turned out to be one of the most complex cases she has dealt with. Publishing her 32nd decision on Thursday afternoon, Dilbert described it as a “particularly difficult hearing”. This was down to a catalogue of reasons, including ther fact that the public authority did not follow the law and because it was inextricably linked with a much wider complaint being made by the applicant about the failure of the National Pensions Office to uphold the law when a high profile private sector employer allowed at least one employee to make his own pension investment outside the statutory requirements.

Despite concluding that the ministry involved and the former National Pensions Office had correctly withheld records and redacted others because they contained the personal details of a third party, the request nevertheless threw up a myriad of procedural issues. The incredibly complex hearing also resulted in the information commissioner ordering the applicant to make a fresh request for what were believed to be more missing documents and others in dispute as it was virtually impossible for Dilbert’s office to untangle the mess.

The commissioner said the administrative confusion was compounded by both sides in the dispute as well as the late arrival of the legal department in the matter and a list of records in question that did not match those the information commissioner’s office was dealing with. 

“I believe that it has been frustrating for the Applicant, who has felt that the NPO and the ministry were often not in compliance with the FOI Law, and that there have been unacceptable delays,” Dilbert said about the hearing. “At the same time, the public authorities have made a huge effort, albeit sometimes after delays, to provide the Applicant with a multitude of records.”

She noted that as a result of her office’s intervention almost 18 months ago when the applicant made the appeal to the ICO, many more documents had been released than at the start of the appeal. Dilbert noted that regardless of the much wider dispute, she had to focus on the FOI Law and the legal exemptions claimed and could not consider any other factors.

“While there have been delays and other difficulties with respect to the public authorities’ compliance,” she said, there was “no egregious or wilful failures to comply with the FOI Law" in the case.

“Given the huge amount of time and resources that have been expended on this matter to date, I am not prepared to continue with these appeals in the current form,” she said. “Section 39 of the FOI Law states that the Commissioner may hear, investigate and rule on appeals filed under this Law, and I am hereby exercising my authority to decline to hear or rule on these current appeals,” she added.

Dilbert explained that records being requested were overlapping with some already received by the applicant and in others the exemptions were similar to those applied to the requests in this decision. She also said there was significant confusion between the parties as to what has been already provided, what has been internally reviewed, and what records remain outstanding.

“The most effective way to continue the process of getting access to further records, would be for the Applicant to carefully examine all the records that have been provided, consider the exemptions that have been applied by the NPO and upheld by me, and make a new FOI request for any outstanding records,” Dilbert ruled. “This would include clearly identifying any records that are referred to elsewhere in records already received. These requests could then work their way through the processes in a timely and organised manner.”

In recent weeks, as her tenure drew to a close, Dilbert has pointed to the increasing complexity of the hearings that she is dealing with, which is illustrated by this particular decision. In every case, however, it seems that either poor record keeping or lengthy delays and procrastination on the part of public authorities is compounding the problems, which the ICO is left to try and unravel while applying the FOI law.

Related article:

Officials aim to end collusion

Category: FOI

Comments (15)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Just imagine having to have your pension managed by the local jokers for years after you have left Cayman and, worse still, in a comedy currency that only increases the risks and costs.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Well, wasn't the Dep Gov the person advocating for the increase in persons from private sector?

     

    So head of Immigration, Pensions & Labour, NWDA, HR managers are from private sector where they have proven their loyalty to the elite/corporate group controlling the politicians and now seems to be too influential in administering and enforcing the law. 

    How's that working Dep Gov?

    Hope you know that no real action to change things for better, not superficial photo op creations every month, will be your true legacy.

    • Anonymous says:

      This beginning to look like apensions dooms-day in Cayman !! We really need to walk carefully or else all our pensions will go up in smokes and we'll have no body not even the courts to defend us.

      • Gut Check says:

        Our pensions have been up in smoke for several years;   poor investments (so we are told) have resulted in serious losses to the pensioners, with no apparent repercussion to the administrators of this government-mandated pension "scheme".  

        Pffft.    I wish we weren't required by law to throw more money away via this scheme.   I sometimes catch myself fantasising that there will be anything left there for me and my family when I reach my retirement age.   

         
  3. Anonymous says:

    Evil always wins.

    • Anonymous says:

      Judging by what goes on today, I can see how you would say this out of frustration. That is perfectly understandable. But if there is evil (and we know there is), then there is also good. Evil is darkness and Good is light. It is impossible for darkness to triumph over light and the darker it gets, the more our lights will shine.

      There are mysteries to be solved. The greatest of which much surely be "Who are you, really?" and "Why are you here?" If you cannot answer these questions, keep on seeking for you shall find. Keep on knocking, the door will open. The intensity of the search is proportional to the quality of truth you uncover.

      What if I told you that you were a spiritual being inside a body of flesh with a divine origin and a divine destiny?

      No, my friend, evil does not always win. It is merely drawing its last few angry breaths before its complete and utter annihilation at the hand of the One who is the Eternal Light.

      Look up, friend. Redemption draws nigh.

       

    • Anonymous says:

      And the dark side has better uniforms and freakier groupies.

  4. Otherview says:

    Oh No!……………………..

    Mrs. Jen's last decision.  She has been awesome at such a ground breaking difficult job.

    Mrs. Dilberts phone may be ringing off the hook as I know at least 20 people who have complaints filed for pensions disputes……….and nothing has been done. They all want to see

    the records of contact with the employers who stole their money.  Someone must have a file with records, letters,  to the employers as the Pensions Office says "they are working on it and they have contacted the accused employer"…………..?????????????????????????????????????

    Long Live FOI !!!

    And by the by…" difficult to untangle the mess"….. Is what the prosperity in Cayman was built on.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Unbelievable!!!  Name the "high-profile" employer!! 

    This was NOT a complicated case…it was very simple and straight forward…an employee collueded with his employer to VIOLATE the NPL and "hide" pension benefits (marital assets) from his spouse!!! 

    As of this writing…the employee in this matter is Caymanian, has NOT contributed to a mandatory pension plan, does NOT maintain a pension account with an approved plan administrator, and the employer has NOT paid the interest, penalty and fees for these violations.

    Even further…the Chief Officer and the Deupty Governor have state they have received assurances from the violators that the employee has received his pension benefits from the "high profile" employer!!  (yes, you read that correctly…they relied on the violators for information!!) They have stated that they "have enforced the NPL fairly and consistently!" FALSE! 

    For the outstanding 1,145 NPL violators…If you have not contributed to a pension plan…simply sign an affadavit that you have contributed.  If you are the employer…hide behind the exemptions and sign an affadavit…or even better…enter into a "confidential settlement agreement with the Information Manager or the Chief Officer"…the governement is providing their paycheck whether they enforce the laws or not!

    The delays are the smallest part of the problem…the cover-up of the "high profile" employer is beyond pathetic.  The government is beyond corrupt…and there is not a single elected official who is not in deep to the deep pockets to fail to enforce their own rules of law. I've already named and shamed those individuals!

    The liability on the part of the Government is amazing…as the applicant in this case I already had the proof of the violations…now I have the failures of the entire Cayman Island Government!!

  6. Anonymous says:

    Great work by the Ministry- the ICO has upheld the decisions of the Chief Officer- seems like a waste of time and a fishing exerise in the first place. Cases like this give FOI a bad wrap.

    • Anonymous says:

      The Ministry has failed in their responsibilities!!! Instead of doing their jobs, they are hiding behind the laws of the FOI to allow the cover up to continue, avoid the exposure of their wrongdoings, and the exposure of the violators of the pension law!  

    • Anonymous says:

      Again we see the XXXX Public Relations Team at work in this comment.

      Dart please give your hard working Public Relations team at XXXX Public Relations a Christmas break. 

      You keep them working so hard all year montoring CNS comments as they make damage controlling counter comments to any exposure of the violations of laws.

      All year you have had your government team at the Pension and Labour Ministry and the other government depatments working hard at covering up for you also, so please let them have  a Christmas break. 

      All year you get value for your money spent on these guardians of your tarnished reputation a Christmas break is deserved, be fair to them. 

  7. Anonymous says:

    They don’t uphold the law in relation to employers that make no pension provisions at-all. They have plenty of fish they should be frying before getting to one that at least made arrangements although outside the strict parameters.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Who really cares about the "Construct" and its money that enslaves us?

    Seek freedom. Do not care about the things of the world and free your minds. Abandon politics, religion and vanity and seek the truth. If you do not think that the "Construct" is real, try freeing up some time for yourself to reflect on the important issues of life and you will hear a cacophony of music, consumerism and news.  It is all fake. Only eternity is real.

    Peace to all my fellow Warriors.