Unhappy with the response you received? Call me

Has your Freedom of Information
experience left you feeling cheated, empty and just generally unhappy? Do you
feel like you have run a politico-bureaucratic gauntlet to find out that not
only was the race an April fools prank, but the organisers didn’t even care
enough to show up to see the prank through? Okay – maybe that’s a bit harsh,
but let’s talk about this.

As I don my Information
Commissioner’s Office issued helmet and trek through the trenches, I seem to
encounter quite a few frown-faced FOI requestors and FOI critics. Persons who
have either made requests and have received what objectively would seem like an
unreasonable response, or those who refuse to subscribe to the greatness that
is the Freedom of Information Law, exclaiming that it is just another
smokescreen used to hypnotize the masses… I will talk a little more to this
enlightened bunch later.

The unfortunate thing is that very
few people actually do anything about their unhappiness and challenge the
government’s responses. What I’m trying to say is, just because a public
authority tells you that you cannot have a particular record or information
contained in that record it does not mean that they are correct. Just because
they tell you that you have to wait until they are ready to give you access to
a record it does not mean that they are correct. Just because they won’t even
acknowledge your request for a record it does not mean that they are right… I
think you get the point. Now please accept that I’m not trying to be scandalous
or “pound-up” any government or quasi-government entity, my aim here is simply
to encourage the populous to make the FOI Law work for them and in turn the
betterment of the country. This will affect the needed cultural shift from
secrecy to transparency, putting all government dealings to the forefront for
the people to see, enabling them to develop informed opinions which are essential
in true democratic societies.

The beauty of the FOI Law is that
it is ‘user-friendly’. The law makes it clear that you can request an internal
review if you are not happy with the initial response to a request or lack
thereof. If the response from the internal review is still not to your liking,
you can appeal to the Information Commissioner’s Office and ask the
Commissioner to decide whether the public authority was correct in how they
handled your request and applied the law. That said, I understand that the idea
of reading a law to identify what steps to take next can be daunting for some
people. Therefore if you are not sure of what to do, or if you are not sure
what powers the law gives you (yes it gives you powers), call me. I invite
anyone who is unhappy, needs clarification or direction on the law and their
rights to contact me (make me work for my salary).You can even submit your
enquiries to me by email under a pseudonym like Donald Duck, Ronald McDonald or
Mickey Mouse… although I think the big eared fella is quite versed on the law.
There is nothing formal about this first contact and I, along with the staff of
the ICO, will strive to assist you to the best of our abilities.

Now as for the “enlightened” group
mentioned earlier, can we respectfully please disembark the conspiracy
bandwagon for a minute? I ask that before we as a community dismiss or berate
something; give it a chance to properly develop. Let’s stop and think, let’s
look at the positives, let’s educate ourselves; and I guarantee that once you
take a step back you too will see and feel the power that you hold by using the
law. Within one year the law has made extreme leaps and bounds toward the
benefit of this country and you. The Information Commissioner has handed down
five formal decisions over the last year and the majority of these have ordered
that the records be released to the applicant.

So no matter your FOI concerns,
your apprehensions, or your curiosities, just contact me, no need for
formalities. If you show me one way that the law doesn’t work, I promise to
show you many ways that it does. Call me!

 

Sonji E.R. Myles LL.B

Intake Analyst

Information Commissioner’s Office

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