Principal Director in the Information Division, Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), Joan Archibald, says implementation and use of the Access to Information Act has had a significant and positive impact on the country.
Ms. Archibald argued that it is now self-evident that the legislation, which was passed in 2002, is an important mechanism for better governance.
She was speaking at the 2012/2013 awards ceremony for the Access to Information (ATI) National High School Essay Competition, held at the Medallion Hall Hotel in Kingston, on March 26.
She emphasized that the ATI regime is a critical tool in meeting the challenges of the 21st Century and making the desired progress nationally and regionally.
“Access to information has meant more transparency and more accountability for public bodies. Importantly, the public can now participate in, monitor how decisions are being made, as well as track how policies that affect communities all over the island are implemented,” she stated.
Miss Archibald said the Government is committed to increasingly more open, accountable and responsive governance, recognising that democracy is only strengthened by this process.
In this vein, she said the continued improvement of the ATI Act through amendment will be pursued in the upcoming legislative year, to build on, broaden and deepen the successes that have already been gained.
Additionally, Ms. Archibald stated that government continues to work towards increasing public awareness of, and getting more people to use the legislation.
“This is important because we know that official information can enhance people’s capacity to exercise their rights. The public must have access to information vital to their lives, including information on basic rights and entitlements on public services, such as those related to health, education, employment and the environment,” she stated.
In the meantime, Glenmuir High School student, Yashae Mitchell, was selected as the 2013 winner of the Access to Information National High School Essay Competition.
The 18-year-old copped the top prize, after beating out some 21 rivals. Munro College’s Kerron White and Andwayne Davis from St. Mary High school received the awards for second and third place, respectively.
For her winning essay on the topic: ‘The Access to Information Act (2002) encourages and facilitates an informed public and public participation in Governmental affairs. Discuss’, Yashae received a cash prize of $30,000 and the ATI Unit trophy.
The second place finisher was presented with a cash prize of $20,000 and the ATI Advisory Stakeholders Committee trophy, while third place received $15,000, along with the ATI Association of Administrators trophy.
The ATI National High School Essay Competition, which is in its fourth year, is open to registered high school students between third and sixth forms. It is sponsored by the ATI Unit and the ATI Advisory Stakeholders Committee, and is designed to give Jamaican youth the opportunity to become more aware of the Access to Information Act.
By Athaliah Reynolds-Baker, JIS Reporter