FOI needs to be fully functional

 Jennifer Dilbert’s passion about Freedom of Information in the Cayman Islands is refreshing.

She’s so passionate that she won’t let anyone – not even a high-ranking government official – allude to it as just a nice accessory.

She is going to work to see that the proper laws are passed to make FOI completely viable here.

Laws need to be passed to give the Information Commissioner the ability to hire and pay her own staff without government interference.

The commissioner needs to be made a legal appointing officer to make the office work without the need to depend on the civil service system.

First and foremost, the Freedom of Information office needs to be totally independent from any and all governmental interference or influence if FOI is going to work in the Cayman Islands.

Yes, it’s something new to this country and there are going to be costs. These are costs that government said it would pay when FOI become law in January.

FOI can work and has been working in the Cayman Islands so far.

That is evidenced in that it appears more private citizens are taking advantage of the law than media houses.

The Observer on Sunday understands the old guard in government may not see FOI as a necessity. Actually, it wouldn’t be if governments in general adopted a policy of transparency rather than secrecy.

Many of the requests sought by the Cayman Free Press have been granted. Appeals have been made for those that weren’t.

 Much of the information requested by CFP and reported on in the Observer on Sunday and sister publication, the daily Caymanian Compass, has been data and facts that were harmless to government, provided transparency for the public, and would have been easy to access if government and the civil service were more transparent.

In other countries with well used FOI laws the long-term effects of ordinary citizens being able to access information has been interesting .What has  been shown is that     not only does it promote transparency and the accountability of a Government, but it also increases public participation in decision-making.

It is our hope that the government sees the need for FOI and the commissioner’s office, drafts and implements the needed laws and comes up with the money to fund the office.

There is so much FOI can do to help the Cayman Islands mature and grow into the future through the ability to get and use government information.

We’ve seen that FOI can work in the Cayman Islands. Government must do all it can to ensure FOI is fully functional.