100+ open records requests made

More than 100 requests for government records were made in the first 27 days the Cayman Islands Freedom of Information Law (2007) was in effect.

As might be expected, law enforcement agencies received the most requests for information in January, with the Immigration Department getting 17 requests and the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service receiving 11.

The Legal Department received eight requests, the Health Services Authority got seven, and the Ministry of Education received six open records requests.

According to statistics provided by Freedom of Information Unit Coordinator Carole Excell, 40 government agencies, government owned companies, or statutory authorities received at least one open records request under the FOI law last month for a total of 117.

‘I am happy that the public is taking advantage of this new right,’ Ms Excell said.

Of the 117 requests received, 81 remained ‘open cases,’ in other words no ruling had been made on whether to disclose the information sought.

Thirty-six requests had been answered. Twelve of those were granted in full, two in part, and five were exempted entirely. The other matters were either withdrawn, already in the public domain, deferred or delayed, or were not answered simply because the agency did not have the records the person was looking for.

The FOI Unit did not get into all the specific requests made by each records-seeker. However, it was interesting to note that 12 of the 17 FOI applications made to the Immigration Department were for the requester’s own immigration records.

Other requests included some items that were already in the public domain, such as a list of everyone granted Caymanian status by Cabinet in 2003, and the scoring system used by immigration to determine awards of permanent residence.

There were requests that sought details on the process of obtaining approval to operate a school in Cayman; the money given to the Cayman Islands Human Rights Committee each year; and one requester asked for all import documentation for the recent dolphin shipments.

Ms Excell said a monthly statistical report will be issued by the FOI Unit to keep track of requests made and how those are handled.

Statistics reported by the FOI Unit are submitted by each government agency on a computer tracking and monitoring system.