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FOIA system rollout anticipated to be ready before end of year

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CENTREVILLE MP Jomo Campbell.

By LETRE SWEETING

Tribune Staff Reporter

lsweeting@tribunemedia.net

THE public may be able to make Freedom of Information requests before the end of the year, as the rollout and testing phase of the system is set to be implemented by November.

During his contribution to the Budget debate, Jomo Campbell, the Minister of State for Legal Affairs, spoke of progress in making Freedom of information a reality and soon to be fully implemented in The Bahamas.

“The Office of the Information Commissioner has secured space for the establishment of the Freedom of Information Unit,” he said.

The Centreville MP highlighted that a crucial aspect of the rollout of Freedom of Information is the establishment of an electronic tracking system to track requests and make reports as mandated by the Freedom of Information Act.

“Under the mentioned Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) loan, the bidding process to choose a vendor to provide a tracking system has begun and the award of the bid should be announced shortly after which the system will be built and user tested before implementation. It is anticipated that this system will be ready for rollout and testing before the end of the year,” Mr Campbell said.

“Under the resources of a $30m loan programme sponsored by the IDB a consultant has been chosen and has developed a National Implementation Plan for the phased roll out of Freedom of Information. This National Implementation Plan has been presented to Cabinet and approved. The plan was also presented to all Permanent Secretaries.

“The rollout process is well underway and it is anticipated that implementation of the first phase should be effective by November 2023.”

Mr Campbell added that a Stakeholder’s Committee of “key public servants” has been appointed to ensure that the requirements to achieve full implementation of the Freedom of Information Act are conducted.

“The committee has held several meetings and is now tasked with reviewing the Implementation Plan and advising the Office of the Commissioner. Their support has been crucial.”

Mr Campbell said full implementation of the Freedom of Information system is a process that must be undertaken in stages, with ten agencies being used to test and evaluate the system in the pilot phase.

“Much preparation has to be done, especially in terms of assessing the records management capabilities of the public service agencies that falls within the ambit of the statute and the general government readiness, the information technology capabilities, staffing and other resources.

“Key ministries have been identified early as pilot agencies to test and evaluate the delivery of information under the Act. All agencies will also be trained in the use of the tracking system once it is in use.”

The ten agencies include the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Works, Bahamas Power and Light, the Department of Public Procurement, the Treasury, Bahamas Investment Authority, Ministry of the Public Service, Ministry of the Environment and the Department of Immigration.

Freedom of Information has been a popular topic for discourse in recent years. Successive governments have made some headway on the issue with drafts, passage and even enactment of legislation on the issue. However, it has yet to be fully implemented.

The Freedom of Information Office was established in 2021. Previously, the office was located at the Yandi building on University Drive. The office was recently relocated to the Bahamas Financial Centre on Shirley Street and Charlotte Street.

Comments

hrysippus 10 months, 1 week ago

Based on past experience with Government departments and State Employed Workers this will all be a disappointing waste of time for both the people employed there and the members of the public or the public entities seeking any information about anything that any government entity has done, It will be delay, delay, obscurate, and delay.

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