FOI exemptions grow, data protection delayed

| 30/11/2018 | 28 Comments

Cayman News Service(CNS): Changes to the Freedom of Information Law passed in the Legislative Assembly earlier this month, without the support of the opposition, will see further areas of legal exemption added to government documents and allow ministers more input in decisions on whether or not to grant applications. Changes to the law largely refer to records with legal, criminal or national security implications but the amended bill nevertheless chips away at public access to government documents. The law has also been revised to remove areas relating to data protection covered under new legislation, which was scheduled to be implemented on 1 January but has now been delayed until September.

Speaking in the Legislative Assembly earlier this month, Attorney General Sam Bulgin, who brought the amended Freedom of Information Law to the House, said the changes had emerged from the FOI committee, established by the LA as far back as 2011, to review the law, as required under the provisions of the original legislation. He said the amendments came out of the work of that committee, but there was also a public consultation and input from the ombudsman and other stakeholders, such as information managers and the public prosecutor’s office.

As he outlined some of the changes, the AG also revealed the delay in the related data protection law due to industry concerns, especially those in the offshore sector, who he implied had been “distracted by other issues” and were not yet ready to cope with the implementation of data protection legislation.

He said that he believed the start date was going to be put off until September, and on Thursday public officials confirmed the postponement in a release from Government Information Services.

The government said that following representations from the financial services industry, Cabinet had agreed to postpone the start date for the law until 30 September 2019 to enable all entities impacted by the law to be ready to meet its requirements. This includes completion of training of their existing staff, new staff recruitment, as needed, auditing their existing data and establishing the needed administrative framework.

“Government is hoping that the new starting date will allow all impacted by the law, including data controllers and employers, small and big, in the public and private sectors, sufficient opportunity and time to prepare and be able to comply with the requirements,” the attorney general said in the release.

Officials said that the delay will help small businesses, as well as providing an opportunity for a public education exercise, which government would use to bring greater awareness to the various provisions of the law and their impact on the general public to help with better compliance.

But Bulgin said he expected the local financial services industry — notably those that have business dealings with European entities — to be already familiar with the proposed data protection requirements, which are similar to the European General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), which they would already have been observing.

The law, which was passed in May last year, is designed to protect personal data relating to individuals. It covers how to give effect to the rights of privacy of individuals in relation to personal data, including how such data are collected, processed, stored or transmitted, particularly in their dealings with government bodies, corporate entities, practices and firms. When the law comes into effect, the Office of the Ombudsman will be regulating compliance with the law, as it is the opposite side of the FOI coin.

The changes to the FOI law, as described by the attorney general, that are unrelated to data protection largely concerned blocking access to what are considered more sensitive documents. Bulgin spoke about the changes in the law to clarify the exemption of records held by the office of the director of public prosecutions, prisons, customs, financial reporting authority and immigration. It removes some public authorities, such as the Stock Exchange, from the provisions of the law and paves the way for records that would be automatically released after 20 years to remain secret.

It also makes room for information managers to talk to their superiors and even ministers about the potential release of a record even before an internal review or appeal process begins. Bulgin justified this, stating that ministers should be able to protect information used to inform public policy.

Some members of the opposition raised concerns about the length of the bill and the amount of changes coming just three weeks ahead of the six-day meeting that included around 21 bills.

See the debate regarding the law below on CIGTV starting at 1:17:08 ending at 2:27:38.

The amendment bill is in the CNS Library.

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Comments (28)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Voters should petition the governor to dissolve the LA, enact Standards in Public Life back-dated to 2009 via Order in Counsel, and call early elections for some time next year.

  2. Anonymous says:

    it not what the people want…it us what the LODGE wants? sooo sad

  3. Two Cents says:

    The aims of freedom of information legislation in well-meaning democracies has consistently been to increase the availability of official information to the people in order to enable them to better understand the policies and laws that their government enact and in turn to promote the accountability of Ministers and public officials to the public that they serve thereby enhancing respect for the law and to promoting good governance. That is not rocket science. Share with us the information that you have so we can better understand why you are doing what you are doing.
    While our legislation was weak before because it exempted records of consultations or deliberations arising in the course of proceedings of the Cabinet, this amendment to section 19 of the law takes that much further. Now, records will be exempt if they contain opinions, advice or recommendations, or a record of consultations or deliberations prepared for a Minister relating to the formulation or development of Government policy. In other words, any cousin, friend or favourite developer can now feel safe in submitting whatever advice or desire he wishes to his favourite Minister and the Minister can take it and enact any a new policy to make them happy and you and I have no right to know.
    Us mere mortals who elect these people and pay them generously to serve us are no longer entitled to see the “advice or recommendations, or a record of consultations or deliberations” that a Minister relied on in proposing a new policy or law.
    Credit for this retrograde step goes to Alden, Roy, Tara, Joey, Bernie, Capt. Eugene, Barbara and David who all voted in favour of it.
    Our amended law now fails FoI 101. Take that!!

  4. Anonymous says:

    corruption at the highest level…shame on you all….

  5. Anonymous says:

    Are CIMA inspection reports covered under FOI? I would like to know if my bank/Corporate company is complying. They always ask me for stuff over and over like they lost my information. There must be a way to find out if the place is under investigation for negligence, non compliance, poor management, poor operations, little to no internal controls, or outright just don’t know what they are doing.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Is anyone surprised by this? Duncan Taylor set the benchmark for FOI obstruction with his $1million fight over the Aina report. The big problem with the Cayman Islands’ FOI is that, unlike the UK, it didn’t incorporate the appeal tribunal concept. Under the UK’s FOIA any dissatisfied application can appeal a refusal to release information to an independent tribunal and that process is free – no lawyers fees or court costs.

    • Anonymous says:

      There is a big difference. Taylor was resisting Governor documents which really never fell within the jurisdiction of being accessible by local Cayman legislation.

      • Anonymous says:

        Sorry 7:18 but could you run that past us again. Aina was paid over $300K of our money (he wasn’t funded by the FCO) to come over and conduct a misconduct investigation into the activities of some pretty prominent residents of these islands and that’s not covered by the FOI Law?

        • Anonymous says:

          11:10 You should make that ‘off the books’ misconduct investigation. Simple fact of life – without effective FOI the public sector can literally get away with murder if they want.

  7. Naya Boy says:

    Standards in public life law will sit on the Premier’s desk until he is voted out office then they will past it in the LA to impede any new government that comes after him. Holding those responsible for bad government and eliminate conflicts would kill these too bullshit parties and destroy their ability to remain in control legacy after they depart from political office. Jailing mckeeva and alden and others for their deliberate and destructive unlawful actions against these beloved islands would be restoring balance and justice and would set a good precedent for the future of our children.

  8. No Choice says:

    What a Disgrace and such despicable people you have elected Now eroding accountability and transparency and people rights in the process. No surprise though this government was not elected but a marriage between the very corrupt the most ignorant and the inept.

    • Anonymous says:

      This is welcome news!! Might stop some of the vexatious and frivolous FOI’s. Get a life.

      • Anonymous says:

        Get some ethics!

      • Anonymous says:

        Get a life? What are you,10 years old? That would make sense.

      • Anonymous says:

        Would the poster of this comment
        show that they have facts to support their statement in reference to giving examples of “FRIVILOUS AND VEXATIOUS FOIs.”l?

        Otherwise it would seem to be “false news” trying to defend Mac and Alden.

        Surely this must be a comment from a blind follower of Mac and Alden.

        Both of them fight to block as much information as they can being released to the public.

        As for Bulgin he would never understand that in a democracy the people should be kept informed about the practices of government.

        PPM Members, if any are left, please try to get the party back on the track it was on when it was founded.

      • Anonymous says:

        Said the public employee with no idea who they work for or answer to!

  9. Anonymous says:

    There is NO corruption in the Cayman Islands!!!
    Oh, wait. “We know that external displays of dysfunction derive from internal disorder. In OfReg’s case, this was exhibited most unprofessionally during a meeting of the regulator’s Board of Directors, where Board Chairman Linford Pierson threatened physical violence against Deputy Chairman Ronnie Dunn, after Mr. Dunn claimed that Mr. Pierson may have broken the Anti-Corruption Law by attempting to secure a commitment from board members to support Mr. Pierson’s appointment as acting CEO of OfReg – the very entity he was appointed to oversee.”
    The minutes were amended to remove this event.
    We can erase history however we like up in here!!

  10. Anonymous says:

    ya all voted for them????

    • Anonymous says:

      That’s just it, we voted them out, and they came back anyway. Helen signed off on this.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes, I voted but it was not to put Mac back in control of government.

      Alden betrayed us by getting in bed with Mac.

      Alden is now bound to follow Mac’s orders, and Mac has to ensure Dart gets all that he wants.

      What s mess we be in.

  11. ppm Distress Signal says:

    What da hell happened to Good “Gowerunce”Sustainability and Transparency Alden? you and your PPM little Minions cannot cope or what?. Corruption has never been compulsory Shame shame shame!!!!Where secrecy exist in government the people trust and confidence cease to exist.

    • Anonymous says:

      So true well said.

      Alden has betrayed most PPM Members.

      Alden is surrounded by his little clique of blind suck up PPM Members.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Wow, they are pulling out all the stops to hide their dirt aren’t they. Mr. Martyn please enact the Standards for Public Life Act.

    • X says:

      Too busy taking selfies with chairman McLaughlin or dear leader!

    • Anonymous says:

      Wasting your breath, remember Mac told him to stay out of Rooster fights and Alden told him to stay away from the talk shows, in other words mind you end up like Choudry

    • Anonymous says:

      Alden is the new Govetnor’s boss, do not look to this governor to up hold hood governance.

      When Governor Choudhury moved towards getting good governance Alden anf Matthew Forbes worked hard to frame him agd get him removed.

      This Governor is now Alden’s stoogie.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Limiting the public’s ability to get the truth! This Government has becomes a dictatorship and it is very concerning. The are going to hide an unbelievable amount of dirt using these changes. The standards in public life law still hasn’t been implemented so their cronies on the board can continue to be protected as well. Well done Alden mein fuhrer


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