Pandemic causes significant drop in FOI requests

| 28/09/2021 | 4 Comments
Cayman News Service

(CNS): The COVID-19 pandemic had a major impact on the number of freedom of information requests made by members of the public last year, according to the Office of the Ombudsman, which released the statistics to mark International Right to Know Day on Tuesday. The number of requests in 2020 was the lowest ever made since the law was implemented twelve years ago. There were just 230 requests for public documents from various agencies, with WORC and the police receiving the most, as they have each year since 2009.

“Last year as the nation grappled with the pandemic we saw the lowest number of open records requests since the Act came into effect, with 230 FOI requests made of which 61% were disclosed in full or in part,” the office stated in a release.

However, Ombudsman Sandy Hermiston said that as time goes on her office has expected the numbers to fall as government agencies become more transparent. “This was one of the original goals set out in enacting right-to-know legislation more than a decade ago,” she said.

But there are still a number of challenges regarding the FOI system. Around 40% of requests were fully or partially denied in some way and government information departments are still taking their time when it comes to their responses, which by law must be made within 30 days.

“Request handling times have remained stable since last year, but many previous years saw quicker responses from the government,” said Deputy Ombudsman Jan Liebaers. “We are looking forward to improvements being made to the government’s FOI tracking system, which should give us more specific data next year.”

See the statistics report and tips on making FOI requests in the CNS Library.

For more information on FOI visit the Office of the Ombudsman website.

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Category: Government oversight, Politics

Comments (4)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    The Freedom of Information Act is a great thing, at least in theory, but not always in practice.

    The FOI staff does a great job. The problem is that, when requests are made that could be damaging to CIG’s public image, there is a push back on disclosure, which is based on confidentiality or legal privilege.

    CIG does not like transparency nor accountability.

  2. Anonymous says:

    It was not because of decrease in want/need for FOI requests. It was because the island was on lockdown for so long people couldn’t make requests.

  3. Anonymous says:

    The amount of crazy FOI submitted is staggering. The vast information is on the websites.

  4. Anonymous says:

    What’s the best hope for an FOI when government has sent everyone home?

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