Public authorities slip on FOI efficiency

| 26/09/2019 | 23 Comments
Cayman News Service
Ombudsman Sandy Hermiston

(CNS): As the Office of the Ombudsman prepares to mark the annual Right to Know Day, in the tenth year since the Freedom of Information law was implemented, the office released a report revealing that public authorities are falling behind again when it comes to complying with the legislation. The latest statistics show that last year over 43% of FOI requests took longer than 30 days, the legal limit, compared to 37% in 2017. The average response time increased to 29 days, an increase of nine days over 2016.

Over the decade since the law was implemented public authorities have collectively dealt with 5,914 requests. Last year 510 requests were made and the majority were personal document requests to immigration, police and customs, the three authorities that have consistently handled the most open record requests across government.

The FOI law has created a window of opportunity for the public to access more information that government holds, especially about themselves, and it has in some cases helped government department’s improve their website and the general information they publish.

However, there continues to be a reluctance on the part of some information managers to deal with FOI requests that seek information that may be politically sensitive or perceived as embarrassing for public sector bosses.

See the full report in the CNS Library


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Category: Government oversight, Politics

Comments (23)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Where is the “winning port proposal” and why can’t the public now review it (as well as all the loosing proposals)? What criteria was used if there wasn’t a design/enviro plan/business case submitted with the proposal?!?

  2. Anonymous says:

    I had to ask FOI for my immigration records after a work permit was refused due to a letter of complaint from a Caymanian. FOI asked the complainant if I could see the letter, and they agreed. Is this normal procedure does anyone know? Why would the complainant get a say?

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    • Anonymous says:

      Because the complainant may be a whistleblower or reporting a crime, and may therefore be deserving of anonymity or other protection.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Thanks for taking the time to respond. There was no crime, just a false accusation. Immigration refused the work permit without consulting me. Is this against Immigration law does anyone know?

    • Anonymous says:

      I am praying for Anon and the other negative posters who bizarrely have reached conclusions unrelated to this article. Simple put this is not bad news folks.

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  3. Anonymous says:

    This trend closely mirrors what happened in the UK after FOIA came in. Within 3-4 years public authorities were finding ways round it, with the FCO and the police being some of the worst offenders.

    The overall attitude towards open government in the UK is best summed by two examples. The first relates to DPA. What then was implemented in 1985 only electronic data was covered so my employer, a large UK council, converted thousands of records back to hard copy. That law was later changed to cover all personal information, whatever format it was held in. FOIA was greeted with a shredding programme on a truly industrial scale. Relying on the fact that until the Act came into force they could destroy records with impunity, the public authorities simply got rid of anything they didn’t want us to see.

    Get used to it – that how government works.

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  4. Anonymous says:

    They are allowed to do whatever they want. The ombudsman’s non confrontational approach means there are no consequences for pressing the ignore button. There is no accountability.

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    • Anonymous says:

      1:56 That’s exactly the same as the way it works in the UK. Public authorities are never properly tackled when they abuse the system but if a private company messes up they get fined £millions.

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      • Anonymous says:

        But here we have a world class civil service. My Deputy Governor tells me so.

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        • Anonymous says:

          2:56 We need the LOL button here!

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        • Anonymous says:

          2:56. Can you read? This is actually an excellent report which highlights the vast improvement in the civil service. Even with the 3% slip. In fact, even the UK nationals posting on this site compare our civil service to the UK which is a world class civil service. The average response to an FOI is 29 days. Sounds world class to me. Stop being jealous.

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          • Anonymous says:

            You have no idea what it is like to deal with many in the civil service. Too many are just plain obstructive, and ill equipped for their roles. Some treat their customers as the enemy, and have forgotten who they work for.

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            • Anonymous says:

              Have you forgotten? The civil service is where they put those who are unemployable in the private sector so each ‘government-of-the-day’ can hopefully create more votes for themselves. Same old same old!!

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          • world class civil servant says:

            2.56 Can we please refrain from using this silly phrase “world class”, we hear it every day from Govt, soon we will have world class toilets, world class garbage dumps, world class public schools, a world class court system and god forbid, a world class Legislative Assembly!.

          • Jotnar says:

            The average time only covers the the time taken when they actually do respond. And 43% of the response are longer than the law allows (that does allow for non responses). So the civil service breaking the law 43% of the time is world class to you?

        • Anonymous says:

          World class, indeed – with all mouths tightly sealed!

  5. Anonymous says:

    govt ignoring foi…only what doesnt incremenate them they release…😴😴😴😴

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  6. anon says:

    This will always be the case, public authorities and the Civil Service don’t want to release the truth.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Anon. Your analysis continues to trouble me. How can you possibly read this report which says that the average response time is 29 days and often an extension is granted by the person making the request that public authorities doesn’t want to release the truth. Really???

      I commend the civil service for its openness. The private sector would struggle to cope with this level of oversight and accountability.

      Yes I am proud civil servant. Lets pray for Anon.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Average response time is measured based on the ones they responded to – ignores the ones they haven’t answered at all! Think about it – how would you measure an average if you included the ones where there was no time given at all?). However, the 43% loner than the law allows percentage does capture non responses. Thats the figure that makes people think they dont want to release the truth. What other inference do you put on a complete failure to reply at all?

  7. Rape & Privilege says:

    Public Authorities need to get over the phobia of releasing information which highlights their shortcomings. Look at it as now the public know, so do better going forward. Sweeping your mistakes under the rug and kidding yourself you’re doing A-Okay is only more embarrassment after the truth finally comes out.

    Get used to it Authorities, FOI serves to serve your customers well and it ain’t going away any time soon.

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