DoT drip feed disclosure unacceptable, says Ombudsman

| 18/09/2023 | 38 Comments
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(CNS): The Office of the Ombudsman (OMB) has ordered the Department of Tourism to release details of the partnerships and sponsorship agreements it made with various overseas entities to promote the Cayman Islands to potential visitors between 2020 and 2022. More than 18 months after a local reporter made an FOI request for the records, the DoT has still not properly responded but has taken a “drip feed” approach, which the OMB said was “unacceptable”.

The DoT effectively declined the bulk of the request made by a member of the Cayman Compass journalism team, suggesting that the deals the department had made with various sporting clubs and other entities were commercially sensitive and contained trade secrets — claims that Ombudsman Sharon Roulstone completely rejected.

In her ruling, she found that the records would not harm the commercial value of the information or the commercial interests of the parties because the withheld documents, including the business cases and agreements involved, did not contain any trade secrets and should have been disclosed in full.

Roulstone said the only exceptions to full disclosure were the personal contact details and signatures of the private entities who were party to the deals.

She also outlined a number of procedural difficulties and raised concerns about the lengthy delays in the DoT’s approach and response to the records application.

“I cannot find any good reason for the slow and selective response the DoT gave to the applicant’s request,” Roulson wrote in the decision. “The final explanations for withholding some of the records were not given until more than a year after the request was made. This is not an acceptable way of answering requests under FOIA or of cooperating with my office,” she added.

The documents relate to the expenditure of public money on deals to promote Cayman and attract new visitors, especially from the UK. In recent years, the DoT has faced considerable criticism and stirred up controversy over its choice of some promotional ideas, such as the decision to sponsor designer handbags and the promotion of unknown local sports teams and niche events.

During the time frame of this request, the DoT spent around CI$500,000 on promotions, including some that were connected to Cayman’s senior tourism official in the UK, Adrian White.

Roulstone stated in her ruling that the general public has a reasonable expectation of understanding the rationale behind the expenditures of public funds and noted the importance of transparency. She also said officials from the DoT claimed that when they spent money promoting a very obscure amateur field hockey team, the Old Cranleighan Hockey Club, they were unaware that White plays for the team.

The DoT has 45 days from last Thursday to either release the remaining records or seek a judicial review of the order to release the documents.

Meanwhile, the ombudsman revealed that this was the 100th decision issued by either her office or the Information Commissioner’s Office (which dealt with FOI issues until the OMB was established) since the Freedom of Information Act took effect here in January 2009.

“The milestone of 100 hearing decisions since the FOIA was first enacted represents considerable time and effort by our Information Rights team. It is reassuring that Cayman’s FOI process is still strong after all these years and that the Cayman public has kept an interest in their right to know,” Roulstone said.

For more information about Cayman’s FOI Act, visit the OMB website.


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Category: Business, Government oversight, Politics, Tourism

Comments (38)

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  1. It’s all about the cover up stupid! says:

    Well done to our news media!

    “ Some people think that the truth can be hidden with a little cover-up and decoration. But as time goes by, what is true is revealed, and what is fake fades away”.

    21
    • Anonymous says:

      Just another Minister of Tourism , inspired by Mac’s time as MOT, believing that the budget is a private piggy bank for the Minister to enjoy as he sees fit.

  2. Time to clean up CIG! says:

    No excuse – each department has dedicated Information Officers to deal specifically with requests under FOIA & DPA.
    When you have initial information giving rise to suspicion that public funds were being spent unjustifiably (and possibly corruptly) outside their original purpose, then it is incumbent on the public authority to be seen as fully transparent and taking proactive steps to investigate this matter, NOT delay and obfuscate. This would just make the Public Authority and senior managers complicit in the cover-up.

    35
  3. Anonymous says:

    Classic Cayman Islands Government and civil service strategy – Delay Ignore Avoid.
    And woe betide anyone that raises their heads above the parapet and questions what’s going on!
    It’s all about the cover up!

    36
  4. Anonymous says:

    This stinks, as regardless of who was involved either in the original decisions or for maintaining the relationships this needs transparency so the public can make fully informed decisions when it comes to the next election. We should throw the lot of them out, to be honest.

    29
  5. Anonymous says:

    another glorious day for the civil service!……zzzzzzzzz

    27
    1
  6. Anonymous says:

    *Ombudsperson

    2
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  7. who profited? says:

    The stonewalling suggests that something is being deliberately hidden. If authorities aren’t proud enough of what they’re doing to allow public dissemination from the beginning, it probably shouldn’t have been done. Can’t help but wonder, who profited from these deals? Is this why the FOI requests are being stonewalled?

    56
    1
  8. Anonymous says:

    Looking forward to Kenny’s next billboard asking for reform of the Office of the Ombudsman.

    47
  9. Anonymous says:

    the law should be amended to say these agencies have 60 days to respond to a FOI or seek judicial review. somebody about to get egg on their face when these documents get released.

    34
  10. Anonymous says:

    It’s the C.I.G way of conducting itself now, in an era of accountability . They hope that by ignoring such requests and implementing the classic stonewalling, the body making the request will just tire and go away.

    36
  11. Anonymous says:

    #worldclassmyass!
    😂 😂 😂 😂

    45
    1
  12. Anonymous says:

    18 month does seem to be the standard civil service turn around time. To be fair when you’ve got a real job on the side it must be difficult to fit in any actual government related paper shuffling.

    40
    2
  13. Elvis says:

    Hahaha big pile under the carpet Kenny?

    29
  14. Anonymous says:

    How about an FOI to get released the $200,000 Deloitte transportation study with recommendations that was delivered to the government last November? Why can’t the public see this?

    https://caymannewsservice.com/2023/01/transport-system-will-need-to-be-24-hour/

    38
  15. Anonymous says:

    Time for the DOT staff to stop protecting Kenny G and throw him under the bus, we all know what went down, but they are protecting this moron for God knows what reason. Maybe they anticipate he will be the next Mackeeva and are scared. The sooner we get this man unelected the better, we all see what happened when Mackeeva took root! heed the warning!!!

    38
    1
  16. Anonymous says:

    Politically instructed to withhold information.

    24
  17. Anonymous says:

    Kenny won’t like this decision. Good job Jan!

    61
    7
    • Anonymous says:

      It was Progressives tourism back in 2020.

      12
      4
      • Anonymous says:

        Shhhh and stop interrupting our we hate Kenny 1001 ways with facts.

        If we want to blame him for the 9/11 twin tower attacks, don’t try to stop us.

        We don’t need no stinking facts.

        1
        1
    • Anonymous says:

      It was done under Moses Kirkconnell as Minister of Tourism.
      This is a DOT issue that Tourism Director Rosa Harris must answer for not Minister Bryan.

      18
      5
      • Anonymous says:

        Rosa Harris, who had no idea her rep in the UK blew through half a million dollars sponsoring obscure sports teams. Heads should be rolling, but nuthin.

        19
    • Anonymous says:

      Not sure this was anything to do with Kenny. Wasn’t it the “prior” administration?

      17
      3
    • Anonymous says:

      We may even find out why a certain football club in England got a DOT sponsorship.

  18. Anonymous says:

    So will anyone be held accountable?! Come on Franz, any comment about the unacceptable conduct of Civil Servants…? – I won’t hold my breath.

    53
    1
  19. Anonymous says:

    Kenny B spending Cayman’s money like he knows he’s only got 2 years left in politics!

    48
    5
  20. Anonymous says:

    Any potential prosecutions for Maladministration (a serious offense at Common Law)?

    37
    1
    • Anonymous says:

      I’m pretty sure the DPP doesn’t know what you are talking about and even if they did then it would mean going after the whole civil service.
      Until we have real leadership in Cayman we just have to come to terms with the fact that we live in a 3rd world jurisdiction that likes to wear a 1st world mask.

      19
      1
    • Anonymous says:

      No it’s not. Misconduct is.

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    • Anonymous says:

      “Serious”. What is taken seriously in the Civil service when someone internal breaks the law?

      12

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