ICO throws book at CINICO

| 01/08/2013

(CNS): The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has described the government’s health insurance company’s approach to the freedom of information law as "appalling" and accused the government company of violating both the spirit and the letter of the FOI law. Commissioner Jenifer Dilbert has made a number of directions that the Cayman Islands National Insurance Company (CINICO) must now follow to improve its understanding and application of the law, as this is the second time it has repeatedly contravened the FOI law during an appeal. In this case, not only did CINICO fail to provide a decision within the statutory 30 days but it also refused to say why it was refusing an applicant full access to board minutes.

In her 33rd decision since the FOI law came into force, Dilbert has used the law to throw the proverbial book at the public authority for its multiple and repeated violations of the law and is failure to cooperate with her office.

The case began with a simple request on 11 February this year for a copy of the CINICO Board minutes of 30 January. The request was acknowledged within the statutory 10 calendar days, but only after being prompted by the applicant. However, on 21 March the information manager refused the request, saying the minutes had not yet been approved. The applicant asked for an internal review and the CEO released redacted minutes on 15 April, stating that the redaction was made under "section 21(1)(a)(b)” of the law, which does not exist, and gave no explanation why.

As a result, on 16 April the applicant asked the ICO for an appeal. But even during the appeal, Dilbert said, CINICO continued to refuse to cooperate about its reasons until the eleventh hour when it said that the redaction was to protect a request for proposal (RFP).

“I note that CINICO’s approach violated both the spirit and the letter of the FOI Law, and was uncommonly unhelpful towards the ICO and the Applicant alike,” Dilbert stated in her decision. “Needless to say that CINICO’s actions fell far short of the expected mark. Even after several requests by the ICO, CINICO refused to cooperate with the ICO’s pre-hearing investigation; I can only find CINICO’s refusal to state the reasons for its decision clearly, as well as its stubborn rejection of the ICO’s pleas to communicate during the appeals process, appalling.”

The information boss pointed out that not only was there uncertainty for the applicant and for the integrity of the appeals process, but it was also an unacceptable and clear violation of the rights of the applicantto be told the reasons for withholding the redacted information. The law clearly expects that a public authority explains exactly why information is being withheld.

“CINICO did not communicate any lawful reasons for withholding the information in its initial decision, and quoted a non-existent section of the Law as the reason in its internal review. Therefore, CINICO did not meet its legal obligations,” Dilbert said, adding that the authority did not conduct a public interest test, in which the factors supporting withholding the information were balanced against the need for accountability and openness in government processes and decisions.

The refusal by CINICO to properly apply the law and their failure to cooperate caused significant issues, but Dilbert also stated that she struggled to find any justification for the redaction.

“As a result, I have no clear indication as to what commercial value the redacted information has and whether this could be destroyed or diminished in value if the information is disclosed, and, if so, how,” she explained, as she ordered the release of the un-redacted minutes.

Referring to a previous decision, where she had found that CINICO repeatedly contravened the provisions of the FOI law, she said the continued contraventions demonstrated a “lack of respect” for the FOI law as well as the policies and procedures of her office.

"It is therefore necessary for me to bring the full force of the Law to ensure compliance in future," Dilbert stated, as she listed the actions she expected CINICO to take over the next three months to put their FOI stall in order.

“I find that in the course of this request and appeal, CINICO has egregiously and wilfully failed to comply with the following sections of the FOI Law," and said these infractions took place on the heels of similar contraventions.

The commissioner said she was hampered in the investigation of this case by CINICO’s disregard for the law as well as the policies and procedures of the ICO.

Dilbert directed CINICO to disclose the responsive record in full and ordered that the senior management of CINICO attend her office for further training in dealing with freedom of information requests. Referring the board to what she said was the egregious and willful failure of the management to comply with its obligations under the law, she also recommended that the board meet with her to learn the statutory requirements which CINICO is subject to under the FOI law.

She said that CINICO should take the appropriate steps to bring it into compliance with the law and to advise her office within three months of the decision what steps have been taken to comply with the ICO requirements.

See the full decision below or go to www.infocomm.ky.

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Comments (21)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Bring back the old management who could truly manage CINICO and proved it over and over again quietly, dilligently, excellently with compassion towards the membership and the ability to lead and shine a light on maximized cost containment strategy and performance.  

    Who turned the lights off?  The "new management".   Time to turn the bright lights back on and keep them on.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Lonny might be an issue yes but I'm sure it is more than just him at fault there.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I have been trying to get the board meeting minutes from the civil aviation authority for months too.  All i get is excuses excuses.  So much incompetance its a joke.

  4. say what I mean says:

    In my opinion, these government offices should receive sizeable budget increases to enable increased staffing and investigative capabilities.

    Information Commissioner Office

    Complaints Commissioner Office

    Auditor General Office

    All other departments should be be required to reduce budget, with a certain percentage of those reductions allocated to these three offices. 

    These offices are responisble, and vital, for keeping government in check and they represent the interests of the fee paying public. 

    Let's get serious about fixing government and rooting out corruption. 

    • tim ridley says:

      You might usefully add to this list the Anti Corruption Commission, that is in serious need of both resources and independence. To be effective, the ACC needs (1) a structural revamp to provide that all its five Commissioners are independent of Government (and the RCIPS), (2) an exective director and qualified staff (again not from the RCIPS), and (3) adequate financial resources.


      Tim Ridley

  5. datwatyaget says:

    CINICO seems to be making waves….ICO is just one of many, but bigger yet is the lawsuit by the US company that was just launched. After reading the facts and understanding the people involved, it seems that much of these propblems could be avoided by stamping out the tomfoolery and ineptitude of the top dude….Lonny. When a guy cant make it in the private sector, the reward should not be a bigger role in a quasi govt institution.           we will continue to be plagued with lawsuits and bad press as long aswe have nepotism to appoint boobs to jobs they arent qualified for.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Will there be ACCOUNTABILITY for the actions of the CEO as it relates to tbe article in todays Compass. This man appears to be a loose canon.

  7. Anonymous says:

    And still no meaningful consequence (AKA "Accountability") forth coming!

    CIG spends an incredible amount of resources to NOT follow laws and "serve" the public eh?

  8. Anonymous says:

     The design of Cinico was amistake to start with, and mismanagement has now forced them to run in to the corner and hide . 

    Perhaps this will bring out in the open how cig has turned a blind eye on them, so they could continually rely on the public purse .  They (cinico) need more than hsa as a provider , but then the hsa would begin to fall apart as their revenue stream would collapse …. Tis a double edge sword that requires  close scrutiny and much sunshine shed upon it


  9. Knot S Smart says:

    Wherever Lonny goes – trouble follows…

    Or is it just me thinking this?

  10. Anonymous says:

    Just the same as their total lack of care or respect for their customers.  I wish there were some other insurance provider from whom I could obtain insurance.  The attitude from the top to the bottom of the staff there is DISGUSTING.  

  11. Anonymous says:

    Go for them Jennifer, someone is hiding something and should be in the dock for it!

    • Anonymous says:

      ALOT to hide- including paying for surgeries that are not required for medical reasons i.e. breast augmentations FOR CIVIL SERVANTS I might add.

      • Anon 13:35 says:

        Prove it. Name a name to teh Auditor General or the Complaints Commissioner. They are able to investigate, if you give them somethign concrete to act on. if you have it. Do you?

      • Anonymous says:

        DON"T go snooping around to stop breast augmentations!  There must be much more important things to investigation, please lord let there be more important things to investigate.

  12. Anonymous says:

    CINICO does not like the Freedom of Information Act because they have lots and lots of incompetence and corruption to hide.


    Go Jennifer.

  13. Anonymous says:

     The condemnatory prose style sounds  like Mrs Dilbert's very able deputy Mr Jan Libeers, formerly of the National Archives, wrote it. It's good to know that we have two talented people in the ICO.

  14. sumbodi hep mi says:

    Good for you JENIFER!

    And shame on you. CINICO!

    This is the kind of stuff Baroness Scotland spoke about the other night. 

  15. Anonymous says:

    Give her the power to fine heavily and appoint auditors to get the info she needs.