Gov says ‘capacity’ is an issue

The Cayman Islands’ small size may
put it at a slight disadvantage when it comes to open records requests,
Governor Duncan Taylor told members of the press last week.

“You may find that in some smaller
departments, a fairly significant amount of resources is tied up in handling
enquiries,” Mr. Taylor said.

The governor said it is essentially
an issue of ‘capacity’ with the Freedom of Information Law and other requirements,
such as those contained in international human rights legislation, in places
the size of the Cayman Islands.

“There is an issue of capacity, and
yet you’re putting more resources into answering questions,” he said.

Mr. Taylor said he did not want his
comments to be misconstrued as a lack of support for FOI laws. However, he said
it might be advisable for government departments to put out as much information
as possible proactively.

“I hope we can move to a culture
where more information is made available automatically, so people don’t have to
make requests for information,” he said.

From his previous experience in
Barbados, the governor noted that its government was often lobbied to sign up
to certain international treaties. He said those requests would be carefully
considered on an individual basis by the government.

“In some instances they say ‘we
don’t have the resources to do that’”, Governor Taylor said, adding that in
other Eastern Caribbean countries treaties that governments can’t abide by are
signed on to, only to realise later that they can’t be fulfilled.

The Cayman Islands Legislative
Assembly has begun its review of the country’s Freedom of Information Law as mandated
by the legislation which took effect here on 5 January, 2009.

Various issues with the legislation
are to be reviewed by a house subcommittee chaired by Attorney General Sam
Bulgin and undergo further review by a select committee of the entire house.

Premier McKeeva Bush has previously
expressed concern in the Legislative Assembly that FOI may go a bit too far
“for this little two-by-four Island”.

During the same comments, made last
June, Mr. Bush also drew attention to the “tremendous costs” of searching for
records that the civil service has to do for open records requests, as well as
the time it takes to do so.


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