Minister of Education Jerome Fitzgerald discussed emails involving Save the Bays in Parliament last year.
By SANCHESKA BROWN
Tribune Staff Reporter
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”.