Panel selected to help choose FOI boss

| 11/09/2008

(CNS): Another step has been taken on the journey to Freedom of Information in the Cayman Islands with the selection of a panel that will advise HE the Governor Stuart Jack and make recommendations regarding the appointment of the Information Commissioner. A press statement issued on Wednesday 9 September stated that the Governor had appointed the panel and he believed the members would be fair in their assessments.

"The panel is a group of highly capable individuals who I know will use both good judgement and fairness when making their decision.  The Freedom of Information Law and the Office of the Information Commissioner will deliver on the Cayman Islands Government’s commitment to be more open, transparent and accountable,” Governor Jack said in the statement.

The nominations for an FOI commissioner were opened in August and it will be up to the panel to consider applicants for the position according to the principles set out in section 4 of the Law.  Based on their recommendations, and, after consultation with Cabinet, the Governor will then appoint the Information Commissioner.

After what was described in the statement as careful consideration five people have been selected to serve on the panel including two politicians. Osbourne Bodden MLA for Bodden Town and Captain Eugene Ebanks MLA for West Bay will serve alongside Tim Adams former CEO of Cable & Wireless and Sara Collins, a local Lawyer who is heading up the newly opened Maitland Cayman office and Chair of the Human Rights Committee. Jenny Manderson a retired senior civil servant and longstanding member of the National Youth Commission will chair the panel. The Selection Panel met this week, and is reportedly aiming to make their recommendation to the Governor by mid October.

“The appointment of a competent Information Commissioner is vital to the success of Freedom of Information,” said Manderson. “I welcome this opportunity to contribute to furthering the principles of openness and transparency in the public service and I look forward to working with the other members of the selection panel.”

The FOI law will come into effect in January 2009 and will for the first time provide rights of access to government records for members of the public. The law was passed in September 2007 and the FOI unit opened its doors in October 2007. The FOI coordinator is Carol Excell, who worked with the Jamaica Field Office of the Carter Centre, supporting the implementation of the Jamaican Access to Information Act.

Excell explained that while her unit is concerned with how FOI works and creating a culture of disclosure, the Information Commissioner will be focused on the enforcement of the law and ensuring civil servants comply. Since its establishment, the FOI unit has been preparing and training members of the civil service on how FOI will work and what it means to them as the custodians of government information and the front line in the implementation of the law.

“We have had a terrific response and have trained Information Managers for most government departments, and in some case two or three people have completed the course,” said Excell. She explained that even when the office of the Information Commissioner is established, her Unit will still have a great deal to do, from assisting members of the private sector who do business with government to supporting the Information Managers across the civil service as they begin to work under the new FOI law.  Excell also noted that the unit would be working on issues relating to data protection and whistle blowing.

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