ICO takes immigration to task over FOI response

| 22/09/2017 | 14 Comments

(CNS): In his latest decision concerning an FOI dispute, Acting Information Commissioner Jan Liebaers agreed with the Department of Immigration (DoI) about an exemption to release information concerning a fine imposed on an employer, but he took the department to task about how the freedom of information request had been handled.

Liebaers pointed out a number of serious procedural deficiencies on the part of the DoI, including problems with how the exemption was claimed, the timing of the internal review, and the lack of a submission made to the ICO in the course of the hearing to provide reasons for withholding the responsive record.

In May 2016 an applicant requested access to records relating to a fine imposed on an
employer by the DoI. The applicant was concerned that the maximum enforcement options had not been imposed. Some records explaining the decision-making process were disclosed, but advice provided by the Director of Public Prosecutions was withheld and remained in dispute. The applicant appealed the matter to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in November 2016.

Liebaers found that the exemption cited in the Freedom of Information Law did apply to the advice, as it constituted “legal advice given by or on behalf of the Attorney General or the Director of Public Prosecutions”. The exemption is subject to a public interest test, but the acting commissioner found that the public interest in disclosure did not outweigh the public interest in maintaining the exemption. He found that no further action was required by the Department of Immigration, and the record could remain withheld.

However, as he outlined the procedural errors on the part of immigration, he stated, “Given the clear violation of these statutory obligations and procedural steps, which were communicated to the Department, it is hard to imagine how any public authority can defend its position to withhold a requested record for well over a year, in the end simply to refuse giving reasons for doing so, which is what the Department’s refusal to provide a submission amounts to.”

Saying he could find no reason why “the unrelenting efforts of several ICO staff members who tried to inform the department of its duties were ignored” Liebaers said the DoI’s “refusal to provide reasons for withholding the ruling/advice can only be described as wilful, egregious and unlawful”.

Acknowledging that the department was under severe strain, including dealing with a high number of permits and a backlog or permanent residency applications, he said this did not excuse the department from its FOI obligations.

See the full hearing decision here.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Tags: , ,

Category: Government oversight, Politics

Comments (14)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Unison says:

    TEDIOUS AND VEXATIOUS REQUESTS!

    Thats what it is! Like please tell me how many crimes consist of Asians that were pregnant and were charged and it occurred in West Bay ???

    I mean you can really waste alot of government time with this Freedom of Information machine!

    The government should have had their accounting and data recording systems updated before passing this FOI Law in the first place! ? … But noooo … we follow UK and UK is more advanced than us ?

  2. West bay Premier says:

    All of the corruption that is happening in the different departments of government and government heads are loosing control over these departments , The results of how thesee Laws are written and the more corruption that are in the bill the better chance of the department having all the discretion .
    But someone needs to scrutinize the Laws before they go into effect .

  3. Anonymous says:

    Classic case of progress versus Cayman culture. Ignorance is still king here.

  4. Anonymous says:

    They have a hard enough time following their own law. Why should we expect them to follow any other?

  5. Suspected Caymanian says:

    I didnt know we had an FOI option at immigration i thought it was a BlackHole where request go in and come in another dimension! I was nfact afraid to send a request for fear of the Men in Black MIB’s who will surely going to come for me if i did !

    • Anonymous says:

      And they will come after you if you do, except they are not men in black. They are men and women cloaked in “forever honorable” who detest the fact that the law might be more powerful than they.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Look, at some point the “Onehrebel” Deputy Governor has to take responsibility for this constant “egregious and unlawful” behavior at Immigration. As Head of the Civil Service, he, Franz Manderson, JP, Cert. Hon., must either hold those at Immigration accountable, or he himself must be disciplined by HE the Governor.

    Since the DG put Linda on “Administrative” leave 4 or 5 years ago, two people have been in charge of the Imm dept. Acting CIO Bruce Smith has been in charge of Imm dept. for about 3 years now I think (where acting for over 12 months is in itself a breach of the Public Service law, but who cares, eh DG?), so this unlawful and egregious behavior was on his watch.

    No worries Bruce ole mate, you will soon be promoted like how Mary Rodriguez and Eric Bush were promoted by the DG after their actions started to smell a bit ripe. Bottoms up.

    • Cracker Jack Box Degree says:

      Given the sheer size the staff levels of the CIG have grown to if some people weren’t doing nothing at all, then too much would be getting done. We can’t reasonably expect any more…

      • Anonymous says:

        That’s so true! What can you expect from their visionless leader franz “food frenzy” manderson though?

        PR points for DG 5k turnouts?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.