Editorial for 29 October: Anything but transparent

Transparency.

We heard the word used quite a bit when the
current government was asking for our vote in the 2009 general elections.

Those campaigning for office promised a
government that would be more open with the people who put them in office.

We editorialised recently that getting
information from this government has become increasingly difficult.

On today’s front page is another example of
the lack of transparency from government in relation to plans to build a proper
berthing facility in George Town.

And it’s not just the media. Every day
citizens have been using the Freedom of Information Law to get information from
all aspects of government.

An individual has been trying
unsuccessfully to find out what’s happening with the port development via FOI
only to end up hitting roadblocks.

“The entire thing has been ridiculous from
the start,” the open records applicant stated in submissions to the information
commissioner’s office. “Even if no further documents are released, the issue
has become more about [the Port Authority’s] deliberate recalcitrance than
anything else.” The Port Authority is basically thumbing its nose at the
applicant and indeed all of us indicating it is above the law and the electors
in these Islands.

The Port Authority now has until 9 December
to either release the relevant documents to the FOI applicant or seek to
challenge the matter in the Grand Court by way of judicial review, but it has
said it will not willingly volunteer any further information.

Why all the secrecy?

What is being covered up? If there is
nothing to hide, then why make it so difficult for the average voting man or
woman to know how our government is running things?

At the end of the day, it is the money that
each of us puts into the government’s coffers that keeps the country running.
We should know how it is being spent.

Transparency. It’s a good word to use when
campaigning.

 

1 COMMENT

  1. The Compass is to be commended for this editorial. However, if we are serious about transparency we need to ensure that there are consequences for non-transparency. At the moment the consequences are inadequate. We need a legislative change to criminalise the refusal to release documents according to the FOI law, in the same way as we criminalise attempting to pervert the course of justice. Civil servants and employees of public authorities need to be fired and banned from further public sector employment for refusal to comply with the FOI law. Finally and most importantly, any politician or party official interfering with the release of documents according to the FOI law needs to be banned from holding any public office for life. I wonder if the members of either of the current political parties would be willing to make a public commitment to do this? I also wonder whether having made a commitment, they would actually do what they say.

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