Single case involved hundreds of documents
An open records request filed for hundreds of documents held by the Cayman Islands National Pensions Office dragged on, in some cases, for as long as 18 months before being resolved, according to a recent report from the Information Commissioner’s Office.
The requests, made between May and August 2012, were “inextricably linked” to a complaint lodged by the applicant seeking the records about the way the pensions office and the then-Ministry of Education handled a pensions account.
“The applicant alleged that the pensions contributions [involved in the case] had not been made by the employer of an individual,” Information Commissioner Jennifer Dilbert stated in her report on the matter. The individual was not the original applicant for the pension records.
A “very broad” request for information was initially filed for the pension records, and many of those records were provided to the applicant. The matters in dispute over the course of the 18-month Freedom of Information process were 83 records held either by the then-Ministry of Education or the National Pensions Office.
“This has been a very involved and ongoing request,” Mrs. Dilbert stated in her ruling. “The public authority has done a large amount of work in providing the applicant with many records. [However] both the applicant and the public authorities involved convolute the substantial complaint of the applicant – that the employer did not pay a pension benefit and this was not properly handled by the regulator [referring to the National Pensions Office].”
Among the records sought in the FOI request were:
The names and email addresses of the current members of the National Pensions Board
A copy of the calculations which illustrate both principal and interest used to determine the pensions arrears amount
All correspondence sent from the superintendent of the National Pensions Office related to a complaint filed on July 10, 2009
A copy of all communication and documents held by the pensions office, the Department of Labor and Pensions, the Minister of Education and the ministry “related in any way” [to the FOI request].
The Information Commissioner’s Office, upon hearing both sides of the open records request, went document-by-document through the records – some of which were released and others that were withheld.
The length of time it took to process the request was unacceptable to both sides, Commissioner Dilbert noted.
“It has been frustrating for the applicant, who has felt that the National Pensions Office and the ministry were often not in compliance with the Freedom of Information Law,” Mrs. Dilbert wrote. “At the same time, the public authorities have made a huge effort, albeit sometimes after delays, to provide the applicant with a multitude of records.”
Mrs. Dilbert noted that, as a result of the open records process, many more records were provided to the applicant than normally would have been if no FOI Law existed.
She requested that the applicant, after reviewing the records provided, resubmit any further requests for records on the matter.