Public input sought for FOI bill

A public consultation process will be undertaken by the Government with regard to the Freedom of Information Bill, Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said at the Cabinet press briefing Friday.

The Freedom of Information Bill was put before the Legislative Assembly as a discussion document in November.

Mr. Tibbetts said objectives of the bill are to strengthen constitutional democracy by ensuring governmental accountability and transparency, and by fostering and facilitating public participation in national decision making.

‘The bill seeks to balance the public’s right of access against obligations to preserve confidentiality of sensitive governmental, commercial or personal information,’ he said.

‘We recognise that this will require a sensitive balancing act and that it is important to take on board all views to ensure that the final law will be one that is well suited to Cayman.’

Mr. Tibbetts said the timeframe of the consultation was not the most important aspect of the process.

‘The primary concern at the moment is the quality of the legislation we end up with,’ he said.

Part of the consultation exercise involves the Government participating in the Public Administration International’s Freedom of Information study programme in March 2006.

‘In addition to attending the PAI workshop, we are also considering bringing facilitators from PAI or another similar organisation to Cayman to conduct workshops of a similar nature,’ he said.

Mr. Tibbetts said the Government is under that view that it may be more effective to bring a Freedom of Information consultant to Cayman.

‘A larger number of participants and stakeholders in the process would greatly benefit, as opposed to the few who would be able to attend the training programme [if it were held elsewhere].’

In addition, Mr. Tibbetts said the Government was moving forward with efforts to make sure the provisions of the bill were known by the widest possible cross-section of the public, both here and abroad.

‘To do so, Government Information Services is on target with preparations for an official launch of the publicity and awareness campaign on 15 January 2006,’ he said.

A multi-media package including television, radio, posters and fliers will be used to disseminate the information and request public feedback during a three month period, Mr. Tibbetts said.

‘We are hoping to get the involvement of churches, schools, governmental groups such as the Civil Service Association, and other youth and social assemblies.’

Mr. Tibbetts also said he was willing to meet specifically with members of the media about the subject.

‘There is a certain requirement,’ he said. ‘You must look at and read the legislation prior to the meeting, so that it’s a useful meeting,’ he said.

Mr. Tibbetts said the Government wants to have the FOI bill passed next year.

‘We hope to complete the exercise and have it reach the Legislative Assembly for safe passage for the June meeting next year,’ he said.

Comments are closed.