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No Freedom Of Information Act Before 2016, Warns Education Minister

Minister of Education Jerome Fitzgerald discussed emails involving Save the Bays in Parliament last year.

Minister of Education Jerome Fitzgerald discussed emails involving Save the Bays in Parliament last year.

By SANCHESKA BROWN

Tribune Staff Reporter

sbrown@tribunemedia.net

THE revised Freedom of Information Act will not be presented to Parliament before spring 2016, according to Minister of Education Jerome Fitzgerald.

Mr Fitzgerald, who is the minister responsible for the legislation, said the government is still in the process of deciding whether it should make the “over 100” amendments needed to augment the present Act or “scrap it” and start it from scratch.

He said the government hopes to make a decision on the fate of the legislation this month.

“Well, the first thing is that we (are) trying to decide whether we have to redo the entire Act or not, because like I said there are over 100 amendments that we have to make to it. So I have a committee with the Attorney General’s Office and (Ministry of) Finance looking at whether or not we can make those amendments or not or if we have to scrap it and start over. So, when we meet this month we will make a decision. They will come back and tell us what they think,” Mr Fitzgerald said.

He also said enacting the legislation will require the overhaul of several government ministries as well as hiring additional staff, a process he said will not get started until it is approved in the next budget cycle.

“The next thing is that each ministry has to get set up in order to deal with the requests and we have to staff each ministry so we have to understand what the financial obligations are going to be needed in order to set these departments up and I have to include that in next year’s budget. So I can’t do anything until next year and I have to be able to advise (the Ministry of) Finance and the public service that this is a whole new set of job descriptions that have to be approved within the budget.

“So there is a whole lot that needs to be done, you don’t just say we want it and click, it’s here. It simply does not work that way. Once I get the support from our next budget then I know it will take me a year and when it comes around by spring 2016 we will be ready to present it. This is a major undertaking, we could pass it but it will not go anywhere without structure.”

The Ingraham administration brought a FOIA to the House of Assembly in 2011. The legislation was later revised and then passed in the Senate in February 2012 without an enforcement date for the new law.

It has not been enacted. Since assuming office in May 2012, the Christie administration has promised to bring forth a stronger piece of legislation, citing flaws in the existing Act.

Over 90 countries in the world have some form of a FOIA, including Caribbean neighbours Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago.

It was suggested by the Free National Movement that the FOIA should be enforced before Value Added Tax is implemented on January 1.

Recently, FNM Leader Dr Hubert Minnis said without a Freedom of Information Act in place, VAT could easily be used as a government “slush fund, to continue spending to continue hiring friends, family and lovers and to continue giving contracts to friends and can even be used for election funds with mass hiring pre-election”.

Comments

B_I_D___ 2 years, 9 months ago

That's so they can debate it for the better part of a year, an implement it just before they get kicked out off of office.

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kairosmatt 2 years, 9 months ago

Amendments?? They just want to amend it so they have more places to hide their corruption.

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kairosmatt 2 years, 9 months ago

They do not need to hire anyone. There are already tons of people on Government payroll who don't do anything. Pass the bill and assign the work to them.

They are just stalling for time so they can continue to plunder the country before we are able to find out.

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Guy 2 years, 9 months ago

What is there to discuss? The existing bill was never even brought into force. Draft and pass a new bill already! These stall tactics are pathetic.

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solejordan 2 years, 9 months ago

all of them needs a good SLAP back into reality, i mean really hire more ppl for what?

everything these days is oh i need to form a committee for the committee of that committee to look into this committee. enough stupidness already

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BiminiHomeowner 2 years, 9 months ago

This government will likely enact it right near the end of their term. That way they can take credit for it, without their corruption being restrained by it.

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Honestman 2 years, 9 months ago

The PLP are so transparent. They think the electorate are fools.

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Sickened 2 years, 9 months ago

We are fools. The majority of us voted them in. To think we actually picked these jokers to 'lead' us! The collective 'we' are stupider than stupid.

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asiseeit 2 years, 9 months ago

It all boils down to the fact that they know that we know that they are corrupt and here is the kicker, they do not care! Why not you ask, well Bahamians do not seem to care and vote these immoral, corrupt, theives in time after time, we deserve to be raked over the coals. If fifty dollars can buy your vote, well, there you go!

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Sickened 2 years, 9 months ago

Come on Jerome, stop protecting your colleagues. Stand tall and be proud.

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SP 2 years, 9 months ago

"Former Haitian president placed under house arrest on corruption charges"

http://www.winnfm.com/news/regional/9705-former-haitian-president-placed-under-house-arrest-on-corruption-charges

Where does the PLP & FNM fit into this picture?

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TheMadHatter 2 years, 5 months ago

Right now, even the shadow-minister of Finance has no authority to find out (for example) how much money was spent on police vehicle maintenance from Jan1 to Jun30 2014.

However, I'm sure he still votes yes to many pieces of legislation brought before the House.

There is no Opposition. They all vote yes to whatever the PM says.

TheMadHatter

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