Editorial for 19 June: Information delayed, democracy denied

We have found little over the past four years for which to
criticise Jennifer Dilbert in the performance of her duties as the Cayman
Islands’ first Information Commissioner.

However, in this case, the Caymanian Compass must differ
with Mrs. Dilbert on a seemingly small, but important point.

In the information commissioner’s view, less than a year
appears to be “not too long” for government to hold onto a public record
pending its submission to the Legislative Assembly. The decision was made in
relation to a request for financial records held by the Cayman Islands National
Insurance Company.

A separate decision made last year noted that holding a
financial record of the Public Service Pensions Board for three years prior to
its tabling in the LA was too long.

So, judging from the two Freedom of Information requests, it
appears that three years to defer the release of a record prior to its being
made public in the LA is too long a time, but 365 days is not?

It is our view that public records, particularly those that
deal with the financial operations of government, should be spared little time
from their completion to when they are made public by the official act of being
laid on the table of the Legislative Assembly. In many cases, it has taken
years for such documents to appear, at which time they are significantly
devalued, if not worthless. If the LA members can simply hold onto public
documents for lengthy periods of time, they could effectively foil the
country’s open records law in many cases.

If justice delayed is justice denied, we feel that
information delayed is understanding denied.

In a modern democracy, the public sector needs to avoid both
situations at all costs.

 

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