(CNS): The ombudsman has let the Public Transportation Unit (PTU) off the hook over a refused freedom of information request because of its poor record keeping. In Sandy Hermiston’s latest decision regarding an applicant’s appeal over a denied public records request, she has upheld the PTU’s refusal because trying to compile the statistics asked for would result in an “unreasonable diversion of resources”, largely due the unit’s failure to properly manage its data and information.
The decision, published last week, indicates that an applicant was seeking information about taxi operators, including numbers, how many of them also have government jobs and issues relating to status.
The tourism ministry, which is responsible for the Public Transportation Unit, supplied the number of operators, which is 285, but declined to share any more information, arguing that “while the PTU holds records which may be responsive, the PTU does not keep statistics on the occupation or the place of birth of the operators”.
The unit claimed that it would be discriminatory to ask that information because they only needed to know that licence holders were Caymanian, not how they gained that national status. The PTU further argued that the application forms, which may have some of this information, would need to be redacted before being released because the documents all contain personal information, including medical issues.
In her decision after the applicant appealed, the ombudsman concluded that the law does not require the creation of new records, such as the requested statistics in this case, and that providing redacted copies of the application forms and supporting documentation would be excessively costly and would unreasonably divert the resources of the PTU. She said no further action was required, allowing the unit to dodge responding to the request.
But Hermiston found that the record keeping at the PTU was “troubling” and would need to improve, especially with the anticipated implementation of the Data Protection Law. She said she had referred the department for an internal audit and noted that the ministry has since committed to updating its electronic system to include relevant data on transport operators and produce related statistics in the future.
The findings raise further questions, however, as the law requires that all public transport operators be Caymanian, and so there must be a way for the government to demonstrate that fact.
It has long been common practice for some operators to sub-lease vehicles and licences or to employ people, including work permit holders, to drive buses while they engage in other work. This means that the PTU must be able to show that buses driven by non-locals are nevertheless still owned and operated by Caymanians.
Issues relating to the licensing of public transport operators and taxi drivers was also recently raised in the Legislative Assembly, when the representative for George Town Central, Kenneth Bryan, asked whether there was a moratorium on licences for transport operators.
Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell said there was no moratorium in place but the board considered licences in relation to supply and demand in a very competitive industry. In further supplementary questions the minister said that licences for taxi drivers and tour operation businesses could only be given to Caymanians, but this did not prevent those owners to apply for permits for their drivers.
See the full decision in the CNS Library
Category: Local News