Info boss says candidates need to understand FOI

| 18/03/2013

dilbert.JPG(CNS): Candidates putting themselves forward for the May election are being invited to meet with the information commissioner to discuss the Freedom of Information Law. Jennifer Dilbert issued an open invitation to would-be politicians following public discussions in the media that, she said, demonstrate a lack of understanding of the law among some candidates. Meanwhile, the current politicians have finally completed their review of the law, which was a requirement of the original legislation. The sub-committee has made recommendations to clarify the FOI law and improve its application but has rejected calls to introduce a fee or remove the right of applicants to remain anonymous.

FOI has become a critical piece of local legislation and Dilbert stated that so far her offer has been taken up by six candidates, who found the discussions to be helpful and educational. In her letter to the political hopefuls, Dilbert said it was obvious to her that “there exists a real lack of understanding of Freedom of Information Legislation” and practice in Cayman.

“This is a fundamental tool for upholding good governance and human rights, and I believe it is a topic that each candidate in the upcoming election, and even more importantly, all of our legislators, should have a good understanding of,” Dilbert added.

She said that she and her staff who would be happy to spend some time with the candidates to provide them with an understanding and grounding in the law and its practical application, as well as answer any questions they may have.  All candidates who have not yet met with Dilbert or her team are encouraged to contact her office to make an appointment, she said.

The Freedom of Information legislation was introduced by the PPM government in 2007 and came into force two years later. Although several public authorities are still struggling to follow the law, it has ushered in a new era of transparency that the government has never experienced before. It has also exposed considerable weaknesses in government’s record keeping and in some cases a continuing reluctance to divulge information that the people have a right to know.

There have been many difficulties with procedural issues and the information commissioner has had to deal with more than 28 appeals to date where public authorities have fought hard to keep records under wraps. Nevertheless, her under-staffed office as done as much as it can to try and change the culture of secrecy in government. As a result, thousands of requests for information from government have been granted since the law came into effect. As well as making government more accountable, it has given the public a much greater insight into some of the systemic problems related to the country’s governance.

The law, when it was drafted, called for its own review under section 58, and although that should have occurred by 2010, the report is now complete and legislators have agreed on a number of administrative amendments, some clarifications and other changes to help with the law’s application. Controversial suggestions made by the former premier that applicants should have to pay to make requests and reveal their identities have, however, been rejected by the committee. 

The report is now a public document and available from the Legislative Assembly.

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Category: FOI

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  1. Information Commissioner's Office says:

    If you have not already done so, you must request an Internal Review with the public authority  to which you made the initial FOI request. After 30 days from requesting the Internal Review, whether or not you receive a reply, if you are still not satisfied with the public authority's response, you may then file an Appeal with the Information Commissioner. If  you need further information please contact the Information Commissioner's Office via email at or call 747-5402. All queries are welcome.

  2. Anonymous says:

    So, what do I do now if I filed an FOI, it was acknowledged and I was told I would have a reply in 30 days and the 30 days has passed? Do I now complain to Mrs. Dilbert?

  3. Anonymous says:

    First time for some of these old heads to learn something new since high school lol