ICO warns of ‘weaknesses’ with CIG websites

| 30/11/2016 | 5 Comments

(CNS): The Information Commissioner’s Office has warned that “serious problems remain” across government as departments are still not updating or properly utilizing their websites to allow the public access to information. In its most recent review of 89 public authorities, the ICO found significant improvements on the results of its assessment in 2011 but found “weaknesses” that need urgent attention. A “significant lack of proactive publication and updating of publication schemes and disclosure logs” on the websites is undermining public access and creating more work on the FOI front for civil servants.

The ICO pointed out that the more information that a public authority publishes the less need there is to deal with FOI requests because proactive publication can preempt them.

“The weaknesses in the maintenance of these tools undermine effective, proactive communication between government and the general public and decrease the efficiency of the FOI process,” Acting Commissioner Jan Liebaers wrote in his report.

Given that some authorities are performing far better than others, the report outlines the best and the worst of the websites, with the Cayman Islands National Archive and Water Authority-Cayman identified as the best examples of well-maintained websites which the other 87 public authorities should be following.

At the other end of the scale, eight years after the implementation of the Freedom of Information Law, five entities – the Cadet Corps, Children & Youth Services (CAYS) Foundation, the Commissions Secretariat, Counselling Services and the Prison Service – still don’t have functioning websites. In the report Liebaers records that the Cadet Corps is refurbishing its old site and it is expected to be back online soon, while the CAYS site has been under construction for some time and only lists contact information for the entity’s managers. The Commissions Secretariat’s web link takes users to the Ministry of Home Affairs website and there are no sites at all for the prison or counselling services.

While website are not mandated in the FOI law, without them it is difficult for the entities to meet certain requirements under the law, such as public access to a department’s publication scheme and their disclosure logs. Even though more than 80 entities do have functioning websites, the ICO said only half have placed their publication scheme online and many that have are not updating them.

Disclosure logs, which are meant to show the FOI requests that have been handled by the public authority, are being published as lists that don’t provide sufficient details to inform potential applicants about what has or has not been disclosed. The ICO said it is best practice for the log to show the actual response to each request, and provide a link to the records, redacted where necessary, to protect personal data. Out of 89 public authorities, only three have an up-to-date disclosure log.

Overall there has been considerable progress on the type and amount of information on government websites as well as the FOI access, the ICO found. Ranking the websites between one and five, around 70% of the sites are now ranked one or two — a marked improvement on the review in 2011 when only 8% of websites were in the top two categories.

But there are still some high-profile government entities where the websites require considerable improvement. Cayman Airways is still ranked at number three, with no improvement since the last review five years ago, as its FOI link is buried under ‘my Airline’ and there is no guidance on how to submit an internal review request, there is no link to a disclosure log and the last time it was updated is unknown.

In his recommendations Liebaers said public authorities should regularly evaluate their websites and update them as a normal part of the business process, especially FOI contact information. They should also be publishing their most recent publication scheme and they should all have an up-to-date disclosure log. Even if an authority has not received any FOI requests for a given year, that should be indicated in the log and all released documents published.

See the ICO report in the CNS Library

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Category: Government oversight, Politics

Comments (5)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Their website can’t be accessed most times with the chrome browser

  2. Anonymous says:

    At least it appears that the HRC website has finally been updated. For months none of the links worked and it was actually worse than useless.

  3. Anonymous says:

    But the report says that there has been significant improvement in this area since the last report. But I don’t see this mentioned in the article.

    CNS: That’s because you didn’t read it all the way through. Paragraph 8: “Ranking the websites between one and five, around 70% of the sites are now ranked one or two — a marked improvement on the review in 2011 when only 8% of websites were in the top two categories.”

  4. Veritas says:

    I am still waiting to hear from Cayman Airways how much they owe Govt for deparure taxes.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I hate to be the harbinger of bad news, but the main reason why Cayman Government cannot keep their stuff up to date is because of ONE simple reason.

    They are delinquent with payments on their software licensing fees. As such, they have no access to improvements in efficiency that would make their jobs easier.

    Their response. Hire a new IT guy from the UK. His response. Buy the licenses. Their response. Hire a new IT guy from the UK. Ad nauseam.

    The IT infrastructure and integration of data from disparate systems is non-existent and the fact that licenses cannot be renewed going forward until the bill is paid means that this issue is going to get worse.

    I spoke to a government IT person and he just shook his head saying they were just surviving. The number he threw at me was over $5 million in delinquent license fees.
    His number was including Oracle and Microsoft and I hear there is a serious issue with government wanting to leave the Checkpoint firewall system in favour of the newfangled security that cannot import the existing firewall rules. This could be over a years worth of work. Just pay the Checkpoint fees for God’s sake.

    FYI. Government want to install Palo Alto

    It would be interesting if the local press actually laid hold of a story (rottweiler style) that really mattered to the public and ran with it until the logical conclusion.
    Talk about a revolution! Give us the unfettered truth and your coffers would overflow.

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