Categorized | National News

FOI Bill Debated

Marathon Member of Parliament (MP) Jerome Fitzgerald yesterday touted the long awaited Freedom of Information (FOI) bill tabled in the Lower House of Parliament on Wednesday.


The Progressive Liberal Party administration has come under much criticism recently for the length of time it took for the legislation to be tabled.


The Bill for the past few years has been available for public consultation, with Civil Society Bahamas playing an integral role in that process.


The government has benchmarked the bill against similar laws the world over as well as the Organization of American States’ (OAS) model.


Mr. Fitzgerald yesterday in Parliament assured that it is revamped to the point where it can withstand global scrutiny.


The Marathon MP gave a comprehensive overview of the proposed bill, consultation and recommendations by the public.


He noted that the FOI Bill is aimed at ensuring accountability, transparency and to help the public make decisions.


“This Bill seeks to reinforce and give effect to certain fundamental principles underlying the system of constitutional democracy and that is as I said before, governmental accountability, transparency and public participation in national decision making by granting to the public general rights of access to records held by public authorities of course subject to certain exemptions,” Mr. Fitzgerald said.


He then spoke to what information was exempted from the law.


“Disclosure of certain documents will be contrary to the financial interests of the public authority by giving unreasonable advantage to one person or the other,” he said.


“It’s whether the disclosure would endanger the physical or mental health or safety of an individual,” Mr. Fitzgerald said.


The first FOIA bill was brought to Parliament in 2012.


The PLP however scrapped the legislation after it determined there were far too many changes to make.


In fact, Minister Fitzgerald branded it “nonsense.”

The minister said he is eager to see how the new bill, once passed and enacted will transform the country and that he is optimistic that Bahamians will make good use of it.


From the opposing side, St. Anne’s MP Hubert Chipman while stating that he supports the legislation reiterated the fact that it has taken too long to reach Parliament.


Meantime, the FNM MP said he has some burning questions in regards to the Bill.


“The Act talks about having the right if the government owns the majority of shares and entities outside. You may own 51 percent or 50 percent in BTC or BPL or whatever, you would have right to that information,” said Mr. Chipman.


“The question I have Mr. Speaker is what happens if you don’t own the majority of shares. Do you still have the right to information considering the government is subsidizing organizations or contributing funds in some shape or form, but it doesn’t equate to majority share,” Mr. Chipman said.







Written by Jones Bahamas

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