JIS News

With the pending introduction of the Access to Information Act, the Ministry of Local Government, Community Development and Sport has already established its own Access to Information (ATI) Unit.
The Ministry’s Director of Documentation, Information and Access Services, Althea Scott, who has assumed responsibility for the ATI Unit, told JIS News that in preparing to meet the deadline, “we realized that we would need a physical space to accommodate our visitors and have them appropriately access whatever information they might want on the Ministry”.
She said that although the passage of the Act has been delayed from its initial deadline of October 1 to October 15, the ATI Unit kept to its launch date and was opened to the media, persons from the Ministry, other government agencies for a test run last Thursday (September 25).
The Director explained to JIS News that “prior to setting up this room, persons coming to seek information would be accommodated temporarily in the lobby area and then in the office of the person from who the information would be given”.
The Unit has a section with literature about the functions of the Ministry, local government reform, statistical data, other government publications, as well as the information on the various projects being undertaken by both the Ministry and its associate agencies.
It is also equipped with two computer terminals that can access a comprehensive electronic database, and feature the Ministry’s intranet and internet services. In addition, the ATI Unit has a television for visitors to screen video cassettes of a documentary feature on the Ministry’s achievements in revamping Riverton City or view footage of the annual Street Jam, for which the Ministry plays an integral role in its planning. Miss Scott noted that the Unit is open to the public. “When someone comes in, they can sit at the desk, look at the Intranet and see what areas are covered by the Ministry and based on that, they will know what kind of information to ask for,” she said. She pointed out that while members of the public could search for the information they desired, there would be nominal charges for such services as printing or saving information to computer diskettes.
The Access to Information Act is meant to provide members of the public with greater access to information about State agencies. The Act is to be implemented in seven government agencies – the Ministry of Finance and Planning, Cabinet Office, Planning Institute of Jamaica, Jamaica Information Service, National Works Agency and the Ministry of Local Government, Community Development and Sport.
Miss Scott informed JIS News that the Ministry of Local Government, Community Development and Sport was the first Ministry to set up an Access to Information Unit, and that the other agencies were slated to follow suit. The projected deadline for the other agencies is October 2004.

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