July 16, 2020

ICO says budget cuts preventing execution of investigations


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Jennifer-Dilbert-ICO-PRESS-912-Edited-239x300Since iNews story “Dilbert joins 33 other FOI officers” published on April 30th, 2013 (see https://www.ieyenews.com/2013/04/dilbert-joins-33-other-foi-officers/) the Cayman Islands Information Commissioner’s Office reported last week that the government’s severe cuts imposed on them is preventing their determining whether public authorities are complying with the Freedom of Information Law.

Jennifer Dilbert, the Cayman Islands Information Commissioner, and her team joined 33 other offices around the world in a survey recently undertaken by the Centre for Freedom of Information based in the UK.

Dilbert found that she was not alone in believing her department was under resourced.

Overall 76% of Commissioners expect the number of appeals which they will receive this year to ‘increase substantially ‘(27%) or ‘slightly’ (49%). None expect the number to decline.

In terms of their capacity to deal with current and projected workloads, 77% believe that their financial and staff resources, are ‘insufficient ‘(58% ) or ‘not at all sufficient’ (19%).

In the ICO’s quarterly report it sated:

“The legal and professional fees budget of the Information Commissioner’s Office was completely stripped away during budget cuts,” the quarterly report read. “These issues…have the effect of negatively affecting the ability of [Information Commissioner Jennifer Dilbert] to effectively meet her obligations under the [Freedom of Information] Law, and they therefore interfere with the independence of this office.”

Dilbert attended the recent Freedom of Information conference in Kingston, Jamaica where the threats to her office’s independent from the central government were raised by her.

See press Release below:

Information Commissioner attends regional conference on FOI

Caribbean Freedom of Information Network launched at Landmark Conference

For the first time, Caribbean governments and civil society have come together to discuss access to information, public participation in governance, and access to justice at a landmark conference held in  Kingston,  Jamaica.  Representatives  from  11   Caribbean  countries  attended  the  “Regional Conference on Freedom of Information in the Caribbean: Improving Management for the Environment,” including Information Commissioner, Mrs. Jennifer Dilbert and Deputy Information Commissioner, Mr. Jan Liebaers.

“Not only has Cayman passed legislation, but we have legislation that is operational and being enforced by the ICO. We have found that in many Caribbean countries while they had the law on the books, the law was not enforced and we were able to provide guidance,” said Commissioner Dilbert.

At the close of the two-day conference on March 21, 2013, governments, civil society, and media announced the decision to launch a Caribbean network on freedom of information to support processes to improve standards for access to information in the region.

Dr. Carolyn Gomes, chairperson of the Access to Information Advisory Stakeholders’ Committee and Executive Director of Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) said, “freedom of information is the most powerful tool for ordinary citizens to arm themselves with the information they need to change their lives. Launching this freedom of information network will build opportunities for collaboration, learning and capacity building among information commissioners, civil society and media across the region.”

Countries reviewed the status and effectiveness of freedom of information laws, the number of requests for information being made in each country, and institutional structures for implementation and enforcement. Jamaica is one of seven Caribbean countries (Belize, Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and the Cayman Islands) to have freedom of information laws in force. Five countries have draft laws pending, and Bahamas and Guyana have passed laws but they are not yet in force. Gaps in implementation were noted in Belize, Antigua, and St Vincent and the Grenadines, which have laws that have not yet fully been utilized by the public.

“Freedom of information laws ensure that citizens can access official documents from their governments and gives them a voice in decisions that directly impact them and the environment,” said Danielle Andrade, Legal Director of the Jamaica Environment Trust.

The conference was funded by The Cayman Islands Information Commissioner’s Office, The Commonwealth Foundation, the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.  Organizers  included  the  Jamaica  Environment  Trust  (JET),  World  Resources  Institute (WRI), The Access Initiative (TAI), Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ), The Mona School of Business and Management, and the Access to Information Unit of Jamaica.


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