Today’s Editorial May 13: Why are MLA salaries secret?

Not too long ago we penned an editorial which stated our delight that the Freedom of Information legislation was on target and, for the most part, working just fine.

For the most part, we still believe FOI can and will work.

But we have now found ourselves in the position to appeal three Freedom of Information requests in which the Attorney General’s Office has advised against the release of specific salaries of government employees.

Cayman Free Press has asked for the salaries and emoluments of all elected members of the Legislative Assembly, and followed that up with requests for the salary and six-month contract of Acting Police Commissioner James Smith and the salaries, job descriptions and travel expenses for members of Government Information Services.

The Attorney General’s Office has advised that the salary bands of government employees’ pay should be released, but not the actual or specific salaries.

Also in the opinion, the Attorney General’s Office said the Legislative Assembly isn’t considered a public authority for the purposes of the FOI Law which essentially means they can’t answer any open records requests.

This is the first we’ve heard of that, and we humbly disagree.

The very people we are to elect a week from today to lead this country will be paid from the public coffers.

The country is using government money, which comes from each and every one of us every time we make a purchase or bring goods into the country, to hold the 20 May election.

The pension those who are elected collect when they retire comes from the public.

MLAs are not civil servants. They are the people we choose to put into office; the people we choose to pay.

They represent the ultimate definition of public employee. Their salaries are paid by us, and it’s a matter in which we have no choice.

The salaries and perks of everyone who is paid out of the public purse should be known to the public.

This country is already in a budget predicament. We deserve to know where every penny of the money we pay in to government goes, and it should begin with salaries.

Freedom of Information legislation is failing in other parts of the world because governments are using it to hide information. We pray that isn’t going to be the case in the Cayman Islands.