JIS News

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  • The Access to Information (ATI) Unit has indicated that it has facilitated improvement in the compliance and reporting mechanisms for government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).
  • The ATI Act gives persons the legal right to see and get copies of official documents held by government bodies, except for those (documents) that are exempt from disclosure.
  • “In relation to 2015, 427 requests for access to information were granted, 18 denied and 46 applications were granted partial access,” Senior Legal Officer in the Office of the Prime Minister with interim oversight responsibility for the Access to Information Unit, Shereika Hemmings-Allison, informed at a JIS ‘Think Tank’ on September 14.

The Access to Information (ATI) Unit has indicated that it has facilitated improvement in the compliance and reporting mechanisms for government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).

This unit is mandated to monitor the implementation and application of the Access to Information Act across all government entities as a means of promoting transparency, accountability and public participation in the national decision-making process.

The ATI Act gives persons the legal right to see and get copies of official documents held by government bodies, except for those (documents) that are exempt from disclosure.

The unit has reported that for the year 2015, approximately 1,230 requests for access to information were processed by public authorities (MDAs, statutory bodies, parish councils and government companies). This figure can be compared to 1,226 requests received for the previous year.

“In relation to 2015, 427 requests for access to information were granted, 18 denied and 46 applications were granted partial access,” Senior Legal Officer in the Office of the Prime Minister with interim oversight responsibility for the Access to Information Unit, Shereika Hemmings-Allison, informed at a JIS ‘Think Tank’ on September 14.

She continued that for the quarter ending March 2016, some 141 requests were received with 54 of that amount granted, three granted partial access, 15 applications transferred to other public entities, and another 58 carried forward to the next period.

“In some cases, documents were not found or the documents did not exist, or a person may have called back not wanting the information anymore,” Mrs. Hemmings-Allison explained.

She noted that the requests or concerns were mostly related to child protection, the expenditure of the Government, health and environment issues.

The Senior Legal Officer noted that the application for access to an official document must be made to the public authority which holds that document.

“The application may be made in writing, via telephone or other electronic means. Once an application for such access is received by the public authority, it is required by law to acknowledge receipt and grant access of the document to the applicant as long as it is not one of the ‘exempt documents,” she outlined.

She pointed out that official documents refer to those in the possession, custody or control of a government body and which are connected to its functions.

Mrs. Hemmings-Allison explained that ‘exempt’ documents are those related to deliberate processes of the Government, the Cabinet, those that affect national security, international relations and personal privacy, and those subject to legal professional privilege.

The unit conducts islandwide public education and outreach activities, engages in training programmes for public authorities, and liaises with non-governmental organisations and other stakeholder groups. It is also the Secretariat to the Access to Information Appeal Tribunal.