FOI requests delayed but not denied

The Cayman Islands Public Service Pensions Board has deferred the release of two reports concerning the financial health of the public pensions system following requests made under the Freedom of Information Law (2007) by the Caymanian Compass.

Information Commissioner Jennifer Dilbert has ruled that the FOI Law allows such deferrals to take place, even if the delay will not ultimately prevent the disclosure of such information.

According to section 11 of the FOI Law, access to records that would otherwise be considered public can be deferred if; the publication of that record is required within a certain time, or the record was prepared for presentation to the Legislative Assembly or other person or agency and that presentation would normally require the document to be made public.

A record’s release can also be deferred under the law if its premature publication could be seen as ‘contrary to the public interest.’

In the case of the pension board reports requested by the Compass, both are required to be tabled in the Legislative Assembly within a scheduled time.

‘It’s not that they can just defer it forever,’ FOI Coordinator Carole Excell said. ‘And they can’t just state that something will be available and they don’t know when.’

The FOI Law requires public authorities to give a specific time frame for when records will be deferred, wherever that is possible. The Public Service Pensions Board has not done so in this case other than to state the records will become public whenever they are tabled in the Legislative Assembly.