Everything you always wanted to know about Government (but were afraid to ask)

| 26/09/2014

One of the things we hear people say all the time at the Information Commissioner’s Office is “if only someone would make an FOI request about that…” – whatever “that” may be. Well, why don’t you? We have all been there: a question sits on your lips, but before you know it you hesitate and daren’t ask. It’s not that the question is not important, and you know a lot of other people want to know the answer too, but in the end you don’t want to cause trouble and drop it.

The theme of this year’s Right to Know Week is “It’s Yours – just Ask”. Government shouldn’t be burdened with trivial questions, but if something is important for you, and you think the answer can be found in records held by government, you should consider making a request under the Freedom of Information Law.

To do so, make your request in writing and deliver or send it to any part of the Public Sector. If possible, you should address your request to one of the Information Managers listed in the official listing of public authorities on the ICO’s website. You can send your request by email, but you do not have to reveal your real name unless you request access to your own personal information, for instance your immigration file. You should receive an acknowledgment within 10 days and a formal response within 30. If you are not satisfied with the response or believe the Law has not been applied correctly, you have the right to seek an internal review, and eventually an appeal to the Information Commissioner.

If you think you are alone, think again. Last year more than 685 FOI requests were made, boosting the total since January 2009 (when the FOI Law came into effect) to above 3,500. This is one of the highest rates of FOI use per capita in the world, if not the highest. One could speculate why FOI is so popular in Cayman – could government be more secretive than elsewhere? Do people feel close to their government and want to know more about what it is doing – and have a say in decisions? Perhaps a bit of both.

The Cayman Islands Government operates both as a national and local government, and therefore holds records that are both of vital importance to the “big picture” growth and development of these Isles, as well as records that have a direct impact on people’s personal lives. As examples of the former, think of all the ministries, and of the latter, Immigration Department, RCIPS, Department of Labour & Pensions, and Health Services Authority. It is no coincidence that all of these entities are amongst the top 10 most
popular recipients of FOI requests, which together account for more than 50% of the requests received by all 90+ public authorities in the Cayman Islands Public Sector: their records are the most relevant for requestors.

If you want to know more about the latest FOI statistics in the Cayman Islands, please visit the website of the Information Commissioner’s Office and look for our Annual Statistics Report 2014.

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  1. Michel says:

    Thank you for the info on ICO’S mission statement and I shall be contacting you. All else failed and a Ministry is withholding a crucial documents that would expose the Truth in a crucial injustice . God Bless. Michel Lemay

  2. Anonymous says:

    It would be good to know how many people throughout Government are pulled from their regular job to work on facilitating FOIs. Don't get me wrong, I think it is good that we are entitled to ask questions and that we should receive the respective answers, however, perhaps there is a more effecient way to get information out to the masses which would reduce the number of FOIs? Also, are there any consequences to any of the misdoings/mishandlings etc that may be discovered through an FOI? If not, what is the point?

    • Anonymous says:

      The point is that the requirement for transparency and the threat of exposure of wrongdoing tends to have a corrective effect on behaviour.

      • Anonymous says:

        That is clearly an inaccurate statement.  Fear of exposure!  Billions can go missing and no one is held accountable and certainly exposure has not dampened the former premiers lust for power.

    • Anonymous says:

      12:49, one of many elephants in the room is the sheer number of civil servants doing nothing else but trying to provide answers to FOI stuff-some of it very valuable, some of it totally useless and mischievous.

  3. Anonymous says:

    In the PPM government budget 100 new jobs positions was added as i understood most of them went to foreign national contracts.Can u please shed some light on that ??