Observer Update: FOI moves ahead

 The Observer on Sunday reported in last week’s editions on some of the struggles, and successes, of the Cayman Islands’ first Freedom of Information Law.

One of the areas concerning Information Commissioner Jennifer Dilbert was a perceived lack of independence for her office, including in her ability to hire new staff.

Changes approved in early November to the Public Service Management Law will give Mrs. Dilbert the power of an appointing officer – which means more autonomy to make hires or changes within her office.

Mrs. Dilbert has repeatedly complained about what she perceives as government’s slow response to enact legal changes to support Cayman’s new FOI regimes.

“We are still struggling,” Dilbert said in last week’s article.

“I feel that the necessary laws haven’t been passed,” she said. “I need to have certain powers to be able to hire my own staff, pay my own staff, so that there won’t be interference from government.”

Dilbert was referring to changes now made in the Public Service Management Law and Public Management and Finance Laws of the Cayman Islands, which make the Information Commissioner a legal appointing officer.

“I report to the Legislative Assembly, but that procedure hasn’t been set up and it’s been nine months now,” she says. “I am concerned government can affect my independence.”

The Information Commissioner is one of three independent offices set up within the Cayman Islands government, including the auditor general and the complaints commissioner. The commissioner essentially acts as a referee when there are disputes between government agencies and those requesting government records about what should be released.