Wednesday, September 14 The FNM government will bring the eagerly-awaited Freedom of Information Act to Parliament before it ends its term in office, vowed Health Minister Dr Hubert Minnis, who admitted that one failure of his government has been a lack of communication with the public.
Discussing the issue of transparency yesterday on a radio talk show, Dr Minnis also promised that as soon as his ministry completes its investigation into the dengue fever outbreak, the report will be presented to Parliament and made public.
“I can say that we will be pushing for a communication report to be presented to Parliament so that the public knows exactly what has happened. Me nor this government is in the business of hiding information from the public and that is why I am a full complete proponent of the Freedom of Information Act. I think the public needs to know what is happening,” he said.
“You need transparency and accountability. Only then can the country move forward.”
Dr Minnis stressed the legislation is an important item on government’s agenda.
“The government is not reluctant to bring this legislation to Parliament. I can say with confidence that it is coming.”
Dr Minnis said Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham is a man of his word who “promised that (the FOIA) is coming, and it will come.”
When pressed by host Ortland Bodie on whether the government, considering everything it had on its plate, would be able to bring and pass the act before the next election, Dr Minnis said there was “adequate” time to bring forward the act.
The minister did however admit the government has not been successful in communicating its messages and goals to the public.
He acknowledged that people are frustrated by the inconvenience of the ongoing road works, the challenges of garbage collection and the stray dog population among other challenges which callers to the programme raised, and may feel the government is not interested in their concerns.
“I think that we are listening to the people, but I think our public relations is poor. I would be the first to admit that. Both in the FNM, the government, and the ministries. We may not have explained to them appropriately what is happening therefore it will be the perception that if I don’t know then you can’t be listening to me. Communication is poor and I find communication is poor not only in the FNM but in the government, in the ministry and it’s a problem that Bahamians spell with a small c and not a capital C, and we must improve on communication.
“We are employed by the people, we have a five-year contract and every five years we go back to the people and seek employment. As employees it is essential that we listen to the people. I think where we have failed, and I will admit that, is in communication. We have failed in communicating and explaining things appropriately. I think that that needs to be improved and once we do that then we have a better country and better communication and you have less stress and anxiety once an individual understands and knows what you are trying to do and you can get their feedback as to whether or not that is the appropriate direction.
“We are doing our best to prepare the country for tomorrow,” he added.