The much-ballyhooed Freedom of
Information Law, which went in to effect in January 2009, was supposed to usher
in an era of transparency.
Without a doubt, there is
information about the workings of government available to the public now that
never saw the light of day before. Our own reporters have used open records requests
to obtain many documents that have led to news stories.
It is safe to say Cayman is more
transparent now than it was before FOI, but, the fact remains the government
has a long way to go before it can really be considered transparent.
Let’s start with the meetings of
government’s boards and committees. Out
of 115 or so of these such entities, only four – the Liquor Licensing Boards of
Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac, the Public Accounts Committee and the Finance
Committee – hold their meetings in public.
Only a handful of others make the
minutes of their meetings readily available to the public. As a result, the community
remains, to a large degree, in the dark about what goes on in the meetings of government’s
boards and committees.
Sure, bodies that deal with matters
of national security or personal matters like medical records should have the
right to hold their meetings, or at least part of their meetings, in private.
But there’s no reason the vast majority of the more than 100 boards and committees
that conduct secret meetings can’t hold their meetings in public, or at least
make the minutes of their meetings public.
We also believe Cabinet should also
be more transparent. We understand the need for collective responsibility in
the deliberations of Cabinet, but why shouldn’t the agenda of its meetings be
public, as well as the outcomes of the agenda items to the extent that the
public knows if they were approved, disapproved, deferred or just discussed.
The government has portrayed the
FOI law as proof that it is transparent, but the truth is, until government
boards and committees start conducting their business within the eyes of public
scrutiny, the boasts of transparency are little more than lipstick on a pig.