Cayman government struggling to keep track of FOI requests

Although the tracking of open records requests made to the Cayman Islands government has improved in the last two years, there are still a number of high-profile authorities that are not able to keep track of those requests as required by law.

The Information Commissioner’s Office reported Monday that 10 public service departments, including the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, the Governor’s Office, Cayman Airways and the Elections Office, either do not have access to the computer system that tracks requests made under the Freedom of Information Law or are not using that system.

Eighty other government entities do have access to the JADE computer program and appear to be logging open records requests onto it. That is an improvement from two years ago when only 69 public entities were using the JADE system, Acting Information Commissioner Jan Liebaers said.

A lack of access to that system means the information commissioner cannot keep track of the progress of those requests as they work their way through the FOI system. Consequently, figures reported to government officials about how many open records requests are made each year and how many are not answered can be incorrect.

The RCIPS does have access to the JADE computer system but chooses not to use it, Mr. Liebaers said.

“The reason given for this non-compliance [by police] is that further training is required,” Mr. Liebaers said in the report.

“In terms of usage of the tracking system, the government has made significant progress since 2014,” the report stated. “Nonetheless, 100 percent compliance, as required by the law, appears to remain elusive.”

The other public authorities not using the JADE tracking system for FOI requests include: the Youth Services Unit, Sunrise Adult Training Centre, Needs Assessment Unit, Cayman Islands Development Bank, Children and Youth Services Foundation, and the Department of Vehicle and Drivers’ Licensing.

Mismanagement or lack of training in how to use the computer system has led to a number of other problems with open records requests, the information commissioner’s office noted.

Those include:

  • FOI requests “disappearing” from the computer system and remaining irretrievable for days
  • Some public sector employees reporting their department was not using the JADE system when it actually was, at least part of the time
  • The general cumbersome nature of the JADE computer program led some departments to instead record FOI requests on an Excel spreadsheet.