Open records law use increasing

More Freedom of Information requests were made to Cayman Islands government agencies during the last budget year than in any since the first year the open records law was enacted.

Government agencies recorded 685 requests for information made to public authorities during the 2013/14 fiscal year, which ended on June 30. The only full year to top that number of records was 2009/10, the year the Freedom of Information Law came into effect.

Records show 739 Freedom of Information requests were made that year and proceeded to fall off gradually until 2012/13, when the number of requests began increasing again.

Cayman government records show open records requests increasing from 523 in 2011/12 to 685 in the year just ended, a 31 percent increase in two years.

The majority of open records requests during the last budget year went to just 10 government agencies. The Immigration Department led the way with 141 requests, accounting for one in five of all the FOI requests made last year.

The remaining popular targets for FOI requests were police (62), the Education Ministry (37), Department of Labour and Pensions (24), Finance Ministry (18), Health Services Authority (18), Health Ministry (17), Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (16), Information Commissioner’s Office (14) and Portfolio of the Civil Service (14).

Government statistics between 2009 and 2014 also showed that, more often than not, requesters were getting the information they sought.

Last year, two-thirds of all FOI requests were granted either in full or in part. Records were exempted from release 28 percent of the time.

Those figures stayed roughly the same in all the years the Freedom of Information Law has been in effect in Cayman. The 2012/13 year saw a record number of exemptions (35 percent of all requests), while 2011/12 showed a record number of records being released in full or in part (69 percent of the time).

The amount of time it takes government authorities to respond to information requests has decreased over the last two years. The average response time to an FOI request last year was 25 days, compared to an average of 30 days in the 2011/12 budget year.

“This is a positive development, but anecdotal evidence indicates that many public authorities continue to view the statutory limit of 30 calendar days [in which to respond to an FOI request] as a target, rather than a maximum allowed period,” the information commissioner’s office noted.

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