Info boss crushed by cuts

| 13/05/2013

budget-cuts-300x300.jpg(CNS): The information commissioner has warned that her office’s ability to function properly is under threat because of budget cuts. In addition, the office’s legal budget has been removed at a time when the governor’s office is challenging a decision by the commissioner in relation to her order to release information in connection with the discredited internal police investigation Operation Tempura. Writing in her quarterly report on the activities of the office, Jennifer Dilbert stated that the budget cuts were such that it was seriously interfering with the independence of her office. The introduction of FOI has changed the electorate’s relationship with government and hampering its progress via financial restrictions should be of genuine concern to voters.

“This quarter the ICO has seriously felt the effects of the severe budget cuts imposed on the Office during this financial year,” the report states. “The absence of a Senior Analyst, a post which was not funded for 2012/13, coupled with an increase in the number and complexity of appeals, has meant that the ICO has been unable to carry out necessary investigations into public authorities’ compliance with the Law.”

Dilbert also notes that she was unable to provide any out of office training for new staff or development of the management team.

More directly of concern was what can only be described as a worrying coincidence that, just as the commissioner begins a legal battle with the governor’s office over an order, the means she needs to fight that battle have been completely cut.

“The Commissioner’s legal assistance for the Governor’s judicial review challenge … has been provided to date by a local law firm, who have kindly agreed to represent the Commissioner with no up-front funding. Despite pleas for legal representation funding, repeatedly made to the Premier and the Financial Secretary, and then to the entire Legislative Assembly, no funding has so far been forthcoming,” Dilbert stated.

“The legal and professional fees budget of the ICO was completely stripped away during budget cuts, and the Commissioner has always stated that should it become necessary funding would have to be provided,” she said adding that she and the deputy commissioner were still actively involved with legal counsel, in preparations for the hearing of the Judicial Review, which is likely to take place in September or October this year.

Dilbert explained that the budget issues have a very real negative effect on the ability of the office to meet its obligations under the Law.

In addition, as more and more public authorities seem to bend the law when itcomes to the process, for the first time in one of the quarterly reports from her office the information commissioner said that she and her deputy met with the Department of Public Prosecutions to discuss the procedures for seeking to bring charges against any public authority that may be in contravention of section 55 of the FOI Law.

Although the report does not indicate which authority or why, this is the first time since Dilbert began publishing quarterly reports that she has indicated the need for possible legal action against an authority, as she reminded all public authorities that they commit an offence if they alter, deface, block erase, conceal or destroy records with the intention of preventing disclosure.

The report reveals that several investigations were instigated by the office and a number of orders were also issued because of compliance failures by government departments and entities.

During the last quarter of 2012 121 Freedom of Information requests were logged into the central FOI tracking system by public authorities. This figure represents a 7% increase in requests from the previous period, and a 20% increase over the same period last year. Of the 121 requests received, 83 were closed during the same period, as were 34 carried over from the previous quarter.

A total of 31 out of 92 public authorities received requests in this period. The other 62 authorities did not log any FOI requests and the office believes that some FOI requests are not being logged into the system.

See full report and news letter from the office below.

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Category: FOI

Comments (22)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Freedom of Information is vital in any nation for good governance. Sadly our outgoing governor did not share my enthusiasm for this as he effectively blocked important information from being released that would have informed the Caymanian people of gross misconduct at the highest levels.

    Do the leaders of our country realize that freedom of information equates to transparency which nullifies corruption, thus making us more profitable? FOI should not be seen as an expense, rather an investment in the upright standing of our nation in the eyes of the world.

    What better way to restore credibility in our reputation than to be honest and transparent?

    I would like a commitment from the politicians to fund this important facet of our government.

     

  2. Anonymous says:

    Caymanian voters’ we have come to know of all the corruption in this country through this valuable office. Make this apart of your decision nect week. May sure this office is funded by the next government . Wake up, Caymanian voters, wake up and speak up through your decision next week.

    • Caymanian Voter says:

      Hear hear! $40 million spent on "schools consultants"over the past 8 years !?! (Today's printed newspaper) and $530,000 of THAT spend on a Project Manager- WTF? I have never heard of a construction project manager making $250k a year XXXX

       

      These FOIs need teeth!! The past PARTY governments have to go. Little sheep – stop following the trail of poo that your party politicians have excreted. I for the life of me cannot fathom how any intelligent person could be so duped by these career politicians. Get rid of the bums I say! They stole our money and only gave us false promises and $900 million in debt.

       

      Thank you FOI you are a saving grace.

  3. St Peter says:

    Isnt it obvious that giving millions to churches has greater vote-buying kickback than maintaining cruical government departments?

    • Anonymous says:

      Partly true 07.29…the real rule is to fund the departments we do not need, overstaff them, let them run their own business at the same time with conflicts of interest, so they will vote for whoever allowed same, but do not give any money to the one who could assist in blowing the whistle on such practices…

  4. Anonymous says:

    What is truly ridiculous is that our current politicians allow the governor's office unlimited government  funds for lawyers to try to prevent the taxpayers of this country from seeing how their money has been wasted while Mrs. Dilbert who is trying to allow taxpayers to see how their money has been wasted is denied any funding by our politicians who were elected to serve the people. Next week everyone needs to vote smarter.

     

  5. Anonymous says:

    They willfully cut her budget so that Tempura can be 'willfully' buried too. What a slap in the faces of all Caymanians who deserve to know the truth; as well as those persons who were GENUINELY accused and vindicated.

    Let me see if this comment goes up because I have posted other stuff; and they were not posted but the content was not bad at all.

  6. Anonymous says:

    In a week when a former Auditor General spoke of widespread corruption in Cayman at a major conference, this sort of action will only further harm the reputation that is already in tatters.

  7. Cold Hard Truth says:

    The cold hard truth is that the public is being tricked into thinking that every other agency in Government – apart from the Information Commissioner's Office –  has a budget that affords everything an agency could possibly want. This is far from the truth. The Prison needs new buildings; Legal Department needs more money to pay for professional fees to fight cases in court; Ministry of Health wants more money to send sick people overseas; Ministry of Community Affairs wants more money to allow more Seamen unto its register; Financial Services wants money to fight bad PR about the Islands; Ministry of Education would like more money to rebuild John Gray School; Ministry of Works wants more money to pay people for lands taken to build roads; Complaints Commissioner wants larger budget too; Police wants more operational assets; Cayman Airways would like money from Government to buy the jets that it leases; Ministry of Tourism wants more money to spend on advertising because of solid tourism performance; Civil Service wants cost of living reinstated to them; there is a hiring freeze across the entire Government with only those vacancies allowed by a committee that can be filled, and the list goes on. The whole public sector is hurting not just one part.   

  8. Rrp says:

    Juju, please give Ms. Dilbert those cheques returned by the churches. Thank you!

  9. Castor says:

    Ms. Dilbert is a courageous young lady. All Caymanians should be proud of her.

  10. Anonymous says:

    "…pleas for legal representation funding, repeatedly made to the Premier and the Financial Secretary…"

     

    Hmmmmmm, guess who wants to continue to keep government mis-deeds secret?

  11. Anonymous says:

    Why doesn't the Attorney General use HIS budget to represent the Commissioner? He doesn't do any other visible work.

  12. Will Ya Listen! says:

    "Something rotten in the State of Denmark" said Marcellus to Hamlet.  He should try Cayman and It isn't the Dump.

    Why does everything smell funny when the Government is involved?

  13. Anonymous says:

    Let's put this judicial review in perspective. Ms Dilbert wants to use it to satisfy a political objective by trying to prove that the FOI laws are in conflict with the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. Based on the documents that have been made public the object of obtaining access to the requested material is a secondary objective.

    According to reports in other media outlets the original applicant, John Evans, is unwilling to support this approach and has withdrawn both the original application and the appeal. Again we can only go on the media reports but the reason for this seems to be that having used Evans’ work to create the grounds for the legal challenge the ICO, on advice from her high-budget lawyers, shut Evans out of the on-going legal process.

    In the meantime Governor Duncan Taylor has offered a way out. He revealed that there was nothing to stop Martin Bridger releasing one of the documents to either Evans or the media in general. That action would then force his office and the FCO to release the second document. The problem is that the ICO’s lawyers haven’t taken this option up because it would instantly terminate their involvement.

    The only reason the ICO is running out of money is because, like most of CIG, they can’t manage their budget.

    • Anonymous says:

      So who are you blaming here? Bridger for not handing the document over or the lawyers for not asking him to? It doesn't seem like anything to do with the IC herself.

    • Anonymous says:

      Anonymous 5/13/2013   18:21

       

      Frankly speaking…you're talking absolute bullshi* !

      How can the FOI laws be in conflict with the Bill of Rights and Constitution when the FOI laws are meant as a support for both…the premise being  that citizens/voters have a RIGHT to the information that is important to them on what their government is doing ?

      Where would it serve Jennifer Dilbert's interests as FOI Commissioner to prove in court that her job runs against the Constitution ?  If the FOI law had been un-Constitutional it would never have been passed or integrated into Cayman law.

      That the FOI law has been FORCED on Cayman, just as a Bill of Rights has, is without doubt but….

      When since has the corrupt and powerful ever agreed to having their actions exposed to the light of day…and public scrutiny ?

      Jennifer Dilbert has a very thankless job in the Cayman Islands.

      It speaks highly of her integrity and courage that she continues to do it in spite of all the obstaclesbeing put in her way….by the corrupt and powerful.

      I sincerely hope that the reviewing judge in this upcoming review on Operation Tempura's records will see things her way !

       

    • Hoping for better days says:

      You should have stated your name as you are quite intelligent. do not even acknowledge the down arrows or "troll" number at rise. the truth is what Caymanians run from. It's in our genes. yes im native caymanian…not "local"…

  14. Cayman GT says:

    Thank God for the Freedom Of Information act. (FOI) If it were not for the 24 hours fast response and ease of service, I would never have seen the poison pen letter written to Immigration slandering perfectly qualified Caymanians.
    Silly people, the times have changed. Your corrupt old cronies ways can no longer hide in secrecy.

    Thank you Ms Dilbert for making this a better place!

  15. Anonymous says:

    Policians and senior civil servants who don't want their activities found out use their control over budget processes and spending to hinder the Information Commissioner and ensure that there is no funding for the anti-corruption commission.

    Money is spent on luxury travel, slush funds and cronies but not on anything that would allow the people of Cayman to see that the money is being spent on luxury travel, slush funds and cronies.

    All of us who can vote must use our votes to end the slide into the ever deeper corruption that will inevitably occur is there is no prospect of disclosure and prosecution for the corrupt.

  16. Jacky Boatside from Oldbush says:

    All gone to the Church mi dear, God Bless you Sweetie! Freedom of Information is free honey ! but Information in Cayman cost money child! especially when the corrupt hiding behind it.