FOI legislation delayed

The Cayman Islands first Freedom of Information bill is still expected to be voted on in the Legislative Assembly later this year despite the fact it was not taken up in the recently ended LA meeting.

Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said last year that he expected the FOI proposal to be considered in February or March. But nothing had appeared by the time the fourth meeting of the government’s fiscal year drew to a close on 23 March.

‘It’s a matter of logistics, not a question of will,’ Mr. Tibbetts said last week. ‘We’re going to be moving the FOI legislation forward in a matter of months.’

In general, Freedom of Information laws allow the public access to certain government records upon request. The Cayman Islands has no mechanism in place to allow for those requests.

Mr. Tibbetts has previously said that it would take some time to get the FOI process up and running, since it would be new to government workers and training is required.

Also, the proposed legislation will create an independent office of the Information Commissioner. That position would hold the same rank in government as the Auditor General or the Complaints Commissioner.

‘We had allowed a certain slack-time before we brought the legislation into being…for the FOI office to be set up, because one can’t work without the other,’ Mr. Tibbetts said.

The Cayman Islands first Freedom of Information plan was brought to the Legislative Assembly in 2005 as a discussion topic or white paper. Since then, there have been reviews by the public and a select committee that have led to changes in that proposal.

The new plan would allow any existing government documents to be requested by the public. A National Archives and Public Records Bill approved in March sets out how government records are supposed to be preserved.

Certain public documents or records would be partially redacted or wholly prevented from release depending on issues concerning national security, the national economy, or the privacy of financial or trade secrets.

Government officials have said a measurement of greater public interest would have to be considered in all cases where records were being exempted from release.

Those requesting information will likely by charged a fee. Mr. Tibbetts has said those costs would not be more than the expense involved in providing the records.

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