Immigration ignores FOI requests

| 25/02/2019 | 37 Comments

Cayman News Service(CNS): The Department of Immigration (DoI) has admitted that a shortage of resources and its transition into two new agencies, the Customs and Border Control Agency and Workforce Opportunities and Residency Cayman, left it unable to manage freedom of information requests. The Office of the Ombudsman, which deals with appeals relating to troublesome requests, found that the DoI failed to respond within the legal time limits, failed to indicate if it held the records requested and failed to publish records that it is obligated to do so under the law.

In this latest decision by Ombudsman Sandy Hermiston, which was published last month, she once again found that the applicant still does not have the records they asked for in October 2017, some 16 months later. The ombudsman said that after the request was made the DoI failed to respond to it and no internal review was conducted.

Several months later, when her office got involved, the immigration department sill failed to release any records, even after numerous communications and meetings to determine the position. Hermiston said that in April 2018 she held a meeting with the relevant staff and expressed her concerns about the DoI’s failure to respond to this and other requests.

“The department and ministry admitted to an acute lack of resources available for FOI law requests and promised to make the applicant’s requests a matter of priority,” Hermiston wrote in her decision. “By the first week of May the requested immigration file was disclosed. A decision on the other parts of the requests was promised by 13 June 2018.”

On 20 June the DoI disclosed some documents relating to policies and procedures on business staffing plans, Caymanian status and permanent residency, which were part of the original request. But the department also stated that the policies and procedures, which it took seven months for them to release, were not actually in use. And when the applicant asked for the ones that are in use, there was no response and to this day the applicant has not received that information.

The ombudsman said that during the appeal some records were released but pointed to a catalog of failings by the DoI, which she said could not be excused just because of the transition.

“This appeal is a good reminder that the law must be adhered to, even when public authorities are occupied with other matters,” she said, though she gave no indication of what sanctions, if any, the department will face for its continued failure to comply with the law.

Hermiston has directed what is now WORC to provide a full answer to the applicant and to publish its guiding documents related to the making of decisions.

She found that the department was experiencing significant organisational changes with the split to create the two new agencies, but the “challenges do not exempt the agencies affected” from following the law.

In addition to highlighting the failure to respond to this request, Hermiston noted that a large part of the request was for records that should have been readily available and easily disclosed, and others should have already been published in accordance with section 5 of the FOI law.

“Members of the public have a reasonable expectation that policies, procedures and guidelines that steer decisions of public authorities be made publicly available,” the ombudsman wrote in her decision. “This is particularly true when their decisions have the potential to greatly affect the lives and livelihoods of individuals, such as the department’s decisions under the Immigration Law,” she added.

See the full decision in the CNS Library

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Category: Government Administration, Government oversight, Politics

Comments (37)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Of course there are policies. This is a typical cover up and Immigration/WORC should be held accountable. Policies are used at this Department all day every day so why are you afraid to make them public? This is corruption at its best. Hold the FOI manager accountable so that she can name and shame those who prevented her from providing this information

  2. Anonymous says:

    Our CIG is filled with unproductive senior people that are WAY TOO COMFORTABLE, happily idle and anonymous, sitting on their tuffets. Let’s drill into these ranks and find out who is specifically obstructing, remove them, and press charges under the Penal Code.

  3. Anonymous says:

    All of the senior level management staff of the DoI that are responsible for oversight of FOI requests should be immediately terminated.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Simple question. Do they have policies or not?A year and counting to answer that simple question? How does a lack of resources matter on that simple point? WTF?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Bring back Governor Choudhury to get government functioning in compliance with the laws.

    Governor Choudhury did more towards good governance in his three months in office than Helpless Helen did in her four years and Martyn the Timid Mouse has done in his six months.

    Governor Roper releasing the secret reason why Governor Choudhury was removed is your first good governance job if you ever want to be trusted.

  6. Listin Yah says:

    She should have given them a strict time limit to provide the information by and a fine per day if they didn’t meet it. The DG could have had another rant about imposing consequences on his World Class Civil Service – just because they blatantly fail to perform!

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s in the decision. Answer applicant with 30 days about whether records are held. Post records used in making decisions within 90 days. There is no authority to impose fines.

  7. Anonymous says:

    The department and ministry admitted to an acute lack of resources available for FOI law requests ……why aren’t they hiring the many Caymanians that are out of work????

  8. Anonymous says:

    The dates do not add up. There is no way a transition that happened in February 2019 can be a valid reason why a request from 2017 was not responded to.

  9. Anonymous says: what else is new?

  10. Anonymous says:

    Excuses excuses excuses. All we get from this government…

    • Anonymous says:

      They get their salary at the end of the month, they are not accountable to anyone, they are protected by politicians who tell them what to do, they don’t have to do anything which is in the least bit uncomfortable or beyond their intellect.
      FOI ? No time for that bo bo.

  11. Anonymous says:

    time for class action suit against cig for incompetence and neglegience

    • Anonymous says:

      Time for a prosecution. If any of this is intentional, it is probably criminal. Is it intentional?

      • Anonymous says:

        Penal Code (2017 Revision)

        119. A person who being employed in the public service willfully neglects to perform any duty which he is lawfully bound to perform, provided that the discharge of such duty is not attended with greater danger than a man of ordinary firmness and activity may be expected to encounter, commits an offense.

        121. A person who willfully disobeys any law by doing any act which the law forbids, or omitting to do any act which such law requires to be done, which concerns the public or any part of the public, commits an offence and unless the law provides some other penalty, is liable to imprisonment for two years.

      • Anonymous says:

        The instructions come from the top.

        • Anonymous says:

          Following instructions to intentionally fail to perform a legal obligation has not been a defense since Nuremberg. Any civil servant wanting to rely on that should probably go running to the anti corruption authorities now to save their own skin.

    • Anonymous says:

      Not many have the guts to do they because vindictive recriminations will follow, look what they did to Legge for telling the truth.

  12. Anonymous says:

    It seems the only way to hold senior CIG gov’t bosses to account, is to revoke their anonymity, and hold their feet to the fire. Rightly or wrongly, Cayman’s press are relied upon to be able to navigate the hydra that is the CI Government, and focus specific comment enquires on those shoulders that are paid a premium to bear these job responsibilities. The press can ask questions of them, and report on whether they decided to be cooperative or not, or relay their response, if it’s in the public interest. In this case, despite there being no Chief Immigration Officer with the amalgam of Immigration and Customs into the new Customs and Boarder Agency, the person responsible ought to be: Christopher Eakin, Director of Policy and Strategic Management.

    • Anonymous says:

      Mr. Eakin is not the Director of Policy or Strategic Management. How could he be? He might be Director of something but as there seems to be no policy or strategic management, it cannot be that.

      • Anonymous says:

        Ah, yes. Let’s blame him. We need a scapegoat. We are running out of them. First there was Linda Evans, then Kim Davis, then Waide DaCosta. They did nothing wrong so I suppose Eakin is as good a candidate as any (not being too senior and all that) to be next, but we had better fix this mess soon or they might start looking for the people who are really responsible.

        • Anonymous says:

          Not a scapegoat. He’s being paid a substantial premium to occupy that position and saddle that specific responsibility by virtue of HIS PROFESSIONAL TITLE. It’s him. He’s welcome to point the finger elsewhere, but how do we get to the bottom of this unless we start at his desk? This isn’t rocket science.

          • Anonymous says:

            Once the Ministry was asked and failed to respond, this was already way over Eakin’s head.

    • Anonymous says:

      Sure, blame Eakin, but do not leave people with last names like Howell, McLaughlin, and Smith out of consideration.

      • Anonymous says:

        If not him, who? He is the flippin’ Director of Policy and Strategic Management!

        • Anonymous says:

          The hint is in the above comment.

          Eakin had a boss, called Smith. Smith had a boss, called Howell. Howell had a boss, called McLaughlin.

          See how it works?

  13. say it like it is says:

    Mr Manderson need to get his act together. So many of his departments simply ignore the FOI Law and by doing nothing about it, he encourages this law breaking.This is just one element of the contempt that civil servants show for the public.They are neither civil nor servants and the only way to stop this is to have them made accountable something that seems to be unheard of in Government.Those responsible should be demoted and ultimately sacked if these failures continue.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Hey CIG, tell us again how FOI isn’t supposed to need more people to do the extra work the law created?

    • Anonymous says:

      It should be simple to copy the policy, if you have a policy and are not just making it up as you go.

      • Anonymous says:

        And if you are making it up as you go, just say so. Then we would know why it looks like you are making it up as you go.

        • Anonymous says:

          Ah, but what if they are going as they make it up, and do not know where they are going or why?

      • Anonymous says:

        But not if you have a policy but dont want to tell people what it is because its inherently discriminatory or illegal. In that case give them the old policy, but tell them they cant rely on it because its no longer in use. SMH.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Police administration no different. Still waiting on an FOI regarding the fill8ng of a position. Response long overdue

    • Anonymous says:

      Courtesy Wikipedia: Stonewalling is a refusal to communicate or cooperate. Such behaviour occurs in situations such as marriage guidance counselling, diplomatic negotiations, politics and legal cases.[1] Body language may indicate and reinforce this by avoiding contact and engagement with the other party.[2] People use deflection in a conversation in order to render a conversation pointless and insignificant. Tactics in stonewalling include giving sparse, vague responses, refusing to answer questions, or responding to questions with additional questions. In most cases, stonewalling is used to create a delay, rather than to put the conversation off forever

  16. Anonymous says:

    Aye, more dirt piling up on an already troubled department. Not good DoI, not good.

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