Immigration department receives bulk of FOI requests

An officier from the former Immigration Department is among three people accused of trying to defraud government in relation to payments for passing English-language tests.

Ten years after the Freedom of Information Law came into effect in January 2009, so-called FOI requests remain a much-used tool by the public to gain access to certain government records.

More than 5,900 requests for information were made between 2009 and the end of last year, according to statistics released by the Office of the Ombudsman.

The 510 FOI requests made in 2018 were at the lower end of the annual average of 500 to 700 requests over the last decade.

As in previous years, information is sought mainly from government departments whose decisions have the largest impact on the lives of applicants.

In 2018, most requests were directed at the Department of Immigration (75) followed by the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (42) and the Customs Department (29).

In about two-thirds of the cases, the information was released in full or in part, once situations were discounted when no records were found, records were already in the public domain, the request was a duplicate or the request was withdrawn, according to the Office of the Ombudsman.

Exemptions are applied to a quarter of information applications.

Although, under the law, the information should be provided as soon as practicable but no later than 30 calendar days after a request is received, the average response time is 29 days.

In 2018, more than 43% of FOI requests took longer than 30 days – typically because an extension was applied – compared to 37% in 2017.