PRESS Secretary Clint Watson says the government has identified several agencies to assist with the rollout of a pilot Freedom of Information programme.
While he was unable to say when the programme will run, Mr Watson told reporters yesterday officials are working on several key initiatives to allow for a smooth launch of the pilot system, one of which includes finding a “suitable location” to house FOI offices.
He also said a consultant has been hired to prepare an operational strategy among other things.
“We are moving to find a suitable location so that we can effectively roll out the operational plan. That’s the first thing that’s happening,” Mr Watson said during a press briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister.
“There is a consultant hired that has been preparing an operational strategy which we are putting in place. We are hiring the necessary staff from the training agencies and it’s important to say to you that there is a training programme that needs to be rolled out in order to prepare the government agencies.”
As for which agencies will be utilised to facilitate the pilot programme, Mr Watson said they are: “The Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Health and Wellness, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, the Public Service, Bahamas Investment Authority, Bahamas Power and Light and Ministry of Works and Utilities.
“Those will be the pilot programmes where we begin first with the Freedom of Information,” he added.
Asked if people will be able request information from those respective agencies, he said: “That’s usually how it works and what happens and that is why the programme is important because we’ll define whether we’re able to fully implement the entire thing... or are we moving it in stages and that’s what we’re waiting for the consultant to determine when they build the programme. How are we going to move into it?”
“It’s going to be a process to make sure that all of these agencies, particularly since they are a part of the pilot programme, are trained and understand their responsibilities and understand how we get information to people and to know the process of doing that. So, once we’re able to identify this process, obviously one of my recommendations has been to ensure that the press is informed and a part of this training process because we want y’all to utilise it.”
In May, the Minnis administration appointed retired Supreme Court Justice Keith Thompson as the nation’s first Freedom of Information Commissioner and Shane Miller, a retired Assistant Director of Legal Affairs (ADLA), as his deputy.
The move was a part of the former government’s promises to fully enact the Freedom of Information Act, though the substantive law has yet to fully come into force.