Thursday, June 2, 2011

Freedom of Information Bill to be tabled within next 2 weeks

The long-awaited Freedom of Information Bill (FIB), will be tabled in the National Assembly within the next two weeks.
The bill has successfully passed through Cabinet’s protocol where it was reviewed and revised for any mis-representations.
Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon, at a post-Cabinet media briefing yesterday, stated that access to information is the most significant aspect of the bill and it paves the way for hassle-free access to information.
“So the provision of information or knowledge about the information that is in the possession of the public agency is what first has to be done. So people are not going to be asking without having some prior knowledge that what they are asking for is available,” he said.
The bill, which was tabled by the Alliance for Change (AFC) Leader, Raphael Trotman, will however pose some conventions with regard to what information is available and what will not be available.
It will also impose the process of how to apply for detailed information as well as what rights an individual can enjoy as a result of an application. The bill also boasts penalties which will be applied to an individual if information is withheld or destroyed.
“The other penalty has to do with the obligation to retain documents; in other words you cannot destroy or hide documents that are requested; and on the other side is the submission of the document to an applicant who then has an obligation, if publishing, to do so accurately and in its entirety,” Dr. Luncheon said.
He further explained, “If you have a document from the public authority you can’t say the Office of the President gave it to me and I published it, and you did some adjustments to it. You have an obligation to provide that for publication as it was provided to you.”

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