Today’s Editorial for June 11: FOI an important tool

Just why does Cayman Free Press want to know the salaries of the employees of Government Information Services?

Because they are paid from the public purse – everyone who spends money on anything in the Cayman Islands is, in part, paying their salaries because GIS employees are government employees.

We made the initial request in January and didn’t get a response until March acknowledging our request. It wasn’t until 1 May that they denied it.

We put the full force of the Freedom of Information Law into effect by appealing the GIS decision.

Information Commissioner Jennifer Dilbert will now convene the first written hearing to determine whether GIS is authorised under FOI to refuse access to those salaries.

That means there will be an exchange of written information between Cayman Free Press, Mrs. Dilbert and GIS. Mrs. Dilbert will ultimately make the decision of whether the information should be released in the public’s interest.

Cayman Free Press has also appealed a decision to not release the salary of the former police commissioner and will appeal a decision to not release the specific salaries of Members of the Legislative Assembly.

We contend that everyone who works for the government is paid out of the public purse and that we – the public – should know how our money is being spent.

We have learned from the Commissioner that from here on, when there is an appeal, the name of the agency and the name of the appellant will be made public on the FOI website. The appellant’s name will only be made public with permission, we are assured.

That’s important.

We would hate for any private member of the public to be intimidated in the use of the FOI Law with the threat of identification.

Cayman Free Press will continue to be an avid user of the Freedom of Information Law and will at every juncture necessary appeal decisions we think are wrong or unfair.

We urge members of the public to make use of FOI to learn more about what goes on in Government.

Yes, some things are confidential and should stay that way, especially when it concerns national security.

But we believe there is a lot of government information that isn’t or shouldn’t be confidential and the public has a right to know.

Freedom of Information is an important tool in all societies. We are fortunate to live in a country that affords us the right to information.

But for it to work, we all must use it.