Records can ‘disappear from view’
Cayman Islands government record-keeping practices, especially within government-appointed committees, are “particularly troublesome,” according to the Information Commissioner’s Office.
The revelation came during a review of work done by the former Human Rights Committee in 2006 involving a complaint filed with the committee by Dr. Luis Luarca. Dr. Luarca had asked to amend or annotate his personal information in the HRC’s 2006 report.
That became problematic when various records supporting the HRC’s 2006 report could not be located.
The Human Rights Committee disbanded several years ago and was replaced by the Human Rights Commission.
Acting Information Commissioner Jan Liebaers said it was not immediately clear what had become of the supporting documentation for Dr. Luarca’s complaint. Mr. Liebaers has asked the government to look for the records again.
“The present case highlights this issue in respect of records of government committees, particularly inactive committees,” Mr. Liebaers’s report on the matter stated. “The management of records of government committees is particularly troublesome.
“Such committees generally work without secretarial support and it is often unclear who is responsible for creating a record of discussions and decisions, and who holds or maintains the ‘official record.’ These uncertainties are multiplied when the committee ceases to exist, effectively increasing the risk that records disappear from view.”
Cayman’s Freedom of Information Law, 2007, establishes certain record-keeping requirements that government entities must maintain, in addition to more detailed requirements of the National Archive and Public Records Law [2010 Revision].
According to Section 52 (1) of the FOI Law: “Every public authority shall maintain its records in a manner which facilitates access to information under [the Freedom of Information Law].”
“This does not appear to have been done in regard to the records of the [former] Human Rights Committee,” Mr. Liebaers wrote. “The [government] ministry has not provided any explanation of why these records – which they were responsible for at the time of their creation – apparently no longer exist.”
Mr. Liebaers described the issue as a “highly unsatisfactory state of affairs.”
“[Government] committees perform important work and their actions and decisions should be properly recorded and maintained over time,” the information commissioner said. “Some committees in particular, such as the Human Rights Committee in the present case, make decisions that may have a significant impact on individuals and organizations.”
In the 2006 human rights complaint, Dr. Luarca made a number of claims, including one that questioned why government at the time was asking job applicants what religion they practiced.
The committee noted in its ruling on the Luarca case: “The requirement (that job applicants state their religion) could … conceivably present an opportunity to discriminate on the basis of religion.”
It was unclear from the records made public in relation to Dr. Luarca’s request to amend his information what aspect of the human rights complaint he was seeking to amend. The Information Commissioner’s Office does not typically identify applicants under the FOI Law, but the original report on the Luarca complaint is still available on the former Human Rights Committee’s website and accessible to anyone.