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The Editor Speaks: Mickey Mouse FOI requests is no reason for Donald Duck

Colin Wilsonweb2It is all very well for the Premier Alden McLaughlin to level criticism at what he said were “Mickey Mouse” requests under the Freedom of Information law but I would have liked his same level of criticism at the government bodies, that use “Donald to Duck” the requests.

He does have legitimate concerns the system is being abused by some requesters but there are far more government bodies using the system to delay answering or not even bother to answer them. And when they are finally forced to reply after many months have gone by they say No and tell you if you are not satisfied appeal.

That the premier has got support from Leader of the Opposition, McKeeva Bush, should have been a red flag to him. Bush wants to go even further and charge people for their rights of information and remove their anonymity so he can see who the ‘trouble makers’ are.

All governments give an election promise they are going to be transparent. What they really mean is they are going to clean the glass in the places they select. Mickey can spend more time playing with Minnie.

I can fully understand governments not liking FOI requests as they can be embarrassing. But please don’t say to us “I confirm my support of this CRITICAL law” and then give us a dozen or so reasons why he is against it.

The very fact he seems to be pushing ahead with his proposal to lump the work of complaints and the information commissioners’ offices into a single ombudsman’s office, shows unfortunately to me he is more critical of the law than he is of saying it is a critical law. I hope I am wrong but it is a feeling I am getting. When the three persons who have held or still hold the office (acting or permanently) are against the offices being amalgamated under an Ombudsman speaks volumes. All have argued eloquently against it and no reasons put forward for it, except making it more efficient, have come forth from the premier.

The only way to make both offices more efficient is more staff and more training provided to the persons who have to deal with the requests.

Former Complaints Commissioner Nicola Williams said an ombudsman would undermine the strength of the commissioners.

“Splicing together disparate bodies with completely different functions whose only common thread is oversight is not, in my opinion, good governance. This is a view that I know is shared by the Acting Information Commissioner,” Williams said.

McLaughlin said in response that not everyone agreed with her without saying who these people who disagreed were, what their qualifications were for coming to such a conclusion nor why.

The cost savings for such an amalgamation are minimal if there would be any at all.

I can fully agree with the premier there is a need to try and address the replication of functions that has arisen over the years as new government departments are created but complaints and information are not the same.

Still, as we have Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck we might as well as have Dopey.


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