Procedural problems continue to plague FOI

| 12/10/2012

files450.jpg(CNS): In her latest decision over a Freedom of Information dispute the information commissioner has upheld a decision by the National Pensions Office to redact some of the documents it finally released. However, in her ruling Jennifer Dilbert highlighted the procedural problems that continue to plague FOI. The process of the request had taken “an inordinately long time”, and while significant records were released in the end, some were not disclosed until the course of the commissioner’s latest hearing, two years after the original request.

“With a timely and correct application of the FOI Law, these documents could have been reviewed, redacted as necessary, and disclosed much earlier, sparing the Applicant, the ICO, the NPO and the Legal Department much time and resources,” Dilbert said.

In this latest appeal an applicant had been refused access by the National Pensions Office to audited accounts and records of correspondence relating to Multiple and Single Employer pension plans. Following the Information Commissioner’s Decision 16 last year a significant number of records were disclosed, but some information was redacted.

As a result of those redactions relating to personal information, with the exception of two words the commissioner upheld the decision by the public authority to black out other words. Dilbert said that apart from one instance, the information consists solely of the names or signatures of officials in the various private sector companies associated with the pension plans

However, in her full decision she points to the delays caused to the hearing by a mixture of missed deadlines by the both the NPO and the Legal Department, which was acting for them, and that department’s late involvement and subsequent objections to various procedural matters, which required the ICO to take legal advice.

See the commissioner’s full decision below.

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Category: FOI

Comments (9)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    One Public authority seems to like the statement 'Information does not exist'.  I have to wonder if this really means 'Information no longer exists after we received your FOI'

  2. Anonymous says:

    FOI is fine when people want information for the good of the country but when its for idle curiosity and to meddle in other people's business its not fine. Since the FOI office seems to only protect the applicants i want to know who will protect the hard working government workers who are subject to theese requests and who are oftren times criticized.  this law is one sided and should be amended. the foi office shouild be more objective.

    • Anonymous says:

      You want to try and find me a 'hard working government worker' whose role will be negatively impacted by FOI? I guarantee it will be a long and fruitless search because the people blocking FOI requests (and I speak from personal experience) are doing so to cover up their own laziness, incompetence, corruption or just plain stupidity.

      I bet if you sacked every civil servant who was shown to have maliciously interfered with an FOI request the quality of public service in the Cayman Islands would improve almost beyond belief.

       

      • Anonymous says:

        We should be asking the question of the resources provided to each department in order to meet the demands of FOI.  Government implemented the legislation but did it provide the people and the systems necessary for department to deal with the request.

        There was recently a report about the increased time to process requests in comparison to previous years.  People seem quick to criticise civil servants but they don't control the budget given to their departments. 

        • Anonymous says:

          Be interesting to run that one past RCIPS because in 2008 they were in the process of recruiting (with approval from the LA) a civilian FOI officer with extensive experience from the UK but that plan was somehow side-lined and the job is now being held down by a senior police officer (a Chief Inspector) with no apparent prior FOI experience. Check out the ICO website for the results of that move.

          I suspect the truth is that FOI was fully resourced but the public authorities involved decided, as they had successfully done with their annual audits for many years, it was easier to try and ignore it. They may have handed out a few promotions, appointed FOI staff and that sort of thing but in reality they just expected it all to go away.

          It not about lack of resources, this is arrogance and incompetence.   

    • Que says:

      The intention of the FOI request should be irrelevant if there is nothing to hide. Besides, trying to second guess the reason for the request would make the entire process impossible to manage.

    • Anonymous says:

      Elio is at the computer again.

    • Anonymous says:

      CNS, it's time you added a w**ker button to these comments.

      Judging by the grammer and spelling this was written by one of those poor, down-trodden 'hard working government workers' who can't understand that the people who pay their salaries have a right to know where all their hard-earned money is going.

       

  3. Anonymous says:

    Be interesting to find out how much these delaying tactics cost and who signed off on them.

    Time to name and shame those responsible.