My last post touched on the importance of transparency – and readily available government information – for the proper functioning of a democracy. Fellow blogger Susan Goffe’s new post seems an appropriate follow up, although it’s quite a frustrating story (hopefully though it might have a happy ending). We have laws designed to make citizens’ lives easier, and must ensure that this one – the Access to Information Act – works for us as it should.
Jamaica’s Access to Information (ATI) Act was passed in 2002 and I believe, despite some of the weaknesses which remain in its provisions, it is an extremely important and potentially powerful tool for members of the public.
The following objectives are stated in the legislation:
In addition to some problems with the legislation itself, there can be challenges to getting the requested information. Sometimes use of the Act goes smoothly; sometimes it does not. Here’s a recent and still ongoing experience of mine.
June 17, 2016
I heard a radio news report about a speech that the Minister of National Security Robert Montague had given at a function the day before, in which he had made comments about people committing crimes while on bail and the need to make changes to the Bail Act because of this.
By email, I made the following request to the Ministry of National Security…
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6 thoughts on “Crimes Committed by People on Bail: An Access to Information Story”
One drawback to the ATIA is too much loop hole for the said Government, Private and other public sector bodies to hide behind, but it is the right step in the way forward. People makes up the Government and not just the representatives.
I agree with you, Floyd! It needs tightening up, definitely, and there are too many “exceptions” to the rule. But in principle, it is a good thing for transparency.
Inherent in the problems, it seems, is a culture of not sharing information, which strains itself to do something that is ‘alien’. It goes to the heart of what public servants believe serving the public means. We see this too, I think, in the actual (poor) delivery of service to the public.
That culture came from the British, of course. The Official Secrets Act is still on the books in Jamaica! All Cabinet documents are exempt from the ATI, etc… Yes, it’s all part of the picture – very uneven “service delivery.”
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Thanks for reblogging! It is very frustrating when the Act doesn’t work as it should. The long delays are the most common problem people experience. It is good, however, when you get your information without any bother.
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You’re welcome, Susan. I get the feeling that a lot of government ministries and agencies just don’t have the capacity to follow up on ATI requests in a timely manner. Or is it something more than simply not having the personnel to deal with them? Perhaps it’s also low priority… It seems to vary a lot. The World Bank has an Open Data project which it has been hoping to pursue in Jamaica. That might help. Do you know about it?