#FOI # comments on excuses for non-compliance
A story form the Cayman Islands http://www.compasscayman.com/story.aspx?id=121408
tells how agencies and government have used arguments like “it’s against policy” or “releasing the documents might be a
Human Rights violation” as grounds for not dealing with an FOI application.
It is a shame that, no matter, what the jurisdiction, agencies and governments will use any excuse to stall on handing over potentially embarrassing documents.
As pointed out by the Deputy Information Commissioner rightly pointed out, policy does not overrule legislation.
I most cases any other legislation will allow for circumstances where the action is permitted or required by law. FOI is a law, therefore, releasing documents where it is required to do so under FOI is a lawful purpose.
The documents are owned by the agency. So saying they were created by some public servant or politician does not give them any special privilege. Case abounds with examples where documents created by a public servant, including a politician, means the documents are the agency’s and must be dealt with according to the (FOI) law.
At the end of the day, for FOI to work, the decision must be that, unless there are grounds to withhold the documents within the terms of the applicable legislation then the documents must be released.
And stalling the matter in the hope it will go away or you can delay the inevitable should be punishable under the legislation or, at the very least, reported by the reviewing body/ies to an independent party that can take the matter further, such as the Ombudsman.
There are ample grounds for refusing to release documents, or information, where it may cause legitimate genuine harm to the government or individual rights. But if people truly want a democratic society they must hold their elected officials and government agencies accountable for their actions or inaction.
Citizens have an obligation to use all lawful means to monitor the actions of their government and raise objections if they feel there are grounds to do so.