Government transparency gets worse

| 30/09/2015 | 13 Comments

foi_jpeg(CNS): The average time it is taking for information managers to respond to freedom of information requests is not only getting longer but now falls outside the requirement of the law. On average it is taking 31 days for applicants to get a response regarding their applications, with more than 50% of all requests going beyond the statutory time frame of 30 days. While the public is using the law more than ever to ask for information, government is getting less transparent, with the proportion of requests granted in full reaching an all-time low of 39%.

In an ironic twist the PPM administration, which introduced the legislation, has boasted about a more transparent style of governance at a time when accessing information about the public sector is getting harder.

According to the 2015 Annual Statistics Report on Freedom of Information from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), released today as part of Right to Know Week, there were over 700 FOI requests during the last financial year and the immigration department received the most applications.

FOI Annual Statistics, RTKW 2015

Acting Information Commissioner Jan Liebaers said the increase in the number of requests was an indicator of the positive use people are making of their right to know but also an indicator that public authorities are still not being proactive about releasing information, forcing people to use the law.

Disappointed with the figures some six years after the law was implemented, he said government was clearly heading in the wrong direction when it comes to applying the FOI law.

“Applicants have to wait longer than ever before for a response and are less likely to get what they asked for in full. Although many government entities make genuine efforts to publish records proactively, this shows that the heralded ‘culture of openness’ remains an aspiration, not a reality,” Liebaers said.

The acting commissioner said the trickle-down effects of leaving the top post vacant and the premier’s open criticism of the FOI law were sending the wrong message to government at large, and this was undermining “the good work many information managers and other public servants are doing to make their government more accountable and open, as demanded in the law”.

The figures reveal that in 2014-15 people made the most request in any twelve month period, with the exception of the first year the law was in place. Most of those were made with public authorities whose decisions have a direct impact on individuals, such as immigration, health and education, but also the portfolio of civil servants. The one agency that saw a decline in requests was the RCIPS, though the public prosecutor’s office was one of the top ten agencies to receive requests.

What the acting commissioner described as a disturbing trend was the increase in response times. Almost a third of all requests last year took 60 days — double the time period set out in the law.

“In prior years the ICO has stated that anecdotal evidence indicated that many public authorities viewed the statutory limit of 30 calendar days as a target, rather than a maximum allowed period. However, now it seems that, at least half of the time, the legal time limit is a loose guideline rather than a target, let alone a legal requirement,” he said.

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Category: Government oversight, Politics

Comments (13)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    In general there are too many back door deals, things that are being negotiated but never or just in passing announced to the public that these deals are being negotiated such as the concessions of the new hotel, the Security Centre providing further security at the Prison without due diligence, the Security Centre at the Police Central ,a giant campaign of input from the public on the new dock but only to barrel ahead with the same idea as before and when questioned through the proper channels it is ignored or protested by legal means the right to know and inform the public. The list goes on. Then the RCIP will be employing or a good chance further drones subcontracted by the Security Centre along with what Daivid Baines alluded to the “partnership” of public and private Cctv. Too many circumventions of due process and too many non compliant answers on requests. Most of these non compliant answers are when money is at stake or a key position is in question…….but do not forget the Education fiasco. This is poor for a democracy.

  2. Confucius says:

    Honest politician have nothing to hide.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Lodge Government!!

  4. Anonymous says:

    One thing that really messes up FOI here is the willingness of certain government departments to ‘lawyer up’ and throw seemingly unlimited resources into disputes over non-disclosure. There needs to be a cap on how much they can spend.

  5. Another Dave in Paradise says:

    Is there any part of this $700,000,000 a year “make jobs” programme, otherwise known as the Civil Service, that actually functions with even the slightest degree of efficiency or competence?

    Never, never, in the history of public administration has so much been expended on so few to achieve so little.

    • Kenny says:

      Dave my boy where have you been living ? The great work of the civil service is the reason you are in cayman ….your house .helper job and safety were all achieved because of civil servants. Oh but maybe your house did not get planning approval your helper is working illegally and someone did take your job and you were robbed last night how ungrateful . Stop making ridiculous FOI requests and the system will be fine.zzzzzzzzzzzz

      • Another Dave in Paradise says:

        “Great work of the civil service.” Now that is truly hilarious.

        Everything I have has been achieved in spite of the overarching cost and bureaucratic burden of the useless civil service. It just annoys me that my fees and taxes are used to fund the madness.

  6. Anonymous says:

    And they want to merge the post of Information commissioner? Only so they don’t have to answer as many questions. They have no respect for the law now…

  7. Anonymous says:

    All CIG employees should have a signed code of conduct statement in their HR employment contract. If they fail to perform as required, there should be cause for suspension without pay or termination – and that should apply to ALL employees from the Premier, Attorney General and Cabinet all the way down.

    • Anonymous says:

      There is a CIG code of conduct, you used to see it posted in most public offices. The problem is it ain’t worth the paper it’s printed on.

      • Anonymous says:

        The Code is actually very good but it is no use if the managers in the civil service-beginning with the Governor and Deputy Governor – don’t enforce it. It’s like an excellent tool in the hands of a useless employee.

    • Anonymous says:

      They should all be subject to drug and alcohol random testing. There is way too much aberrant behavior in the civil service to not require this.

    • Anonymous says:

      I have always known the Civil Service to have a Code of Conduct handed to you when entering the Service, and it did well in my time. Maybe. now it needs some fine tuning to be worthwhile. Due to the many changes in the Service, its conduct and overstepping of boundaries in matters have become more outstanding as a Civil Servant.- it was always your head of department to request the information to be imparted, but now a days you get every hog, dog and puppy giving instructions that at the end of the day is distorted, no one knows what the other person says, and this is our down fall, once this information becomes public it is hard to put right -then they are all in a mess at this point.

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