Categorized | National News

FOI Bill On The Horizon

The secrecy behind the details of the Baha Mar deal have echoed the need for a Freedom of Information Act by several prominent persons over the past several weeks, but a clearer timeline for the tabling of the legislation has been set.

Speaking to reporters outside of cabinet yesterday Education Minister Jerome Fitzgerald said he expects to bring the legislation to parliament before the end of the year.

“The committee has finished its work now I received a report with the recommendations from them a week before last I’m now preparing a cabinet paper for Cabinet in regards to the recommendation for the changes in the Act as far as which ones will be accepted and which ones will not.

“Within the next two weeks it should be before cabinet and I’m looking to bring it to the House of Assembly when we return in October, I’m really trying to make sure the debate is complete by the end of the year,” Mr. Fitzgerald said.

A committee comprising representatives from the Office of the Attorney General, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, the College of the Bahamas (LL.B Department), the Archives and the Data Protection Commissioner have been meeting since June of last year to examine the provisions of the existing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to determine whether changes would be recommended in accordance with other jurisdictions and international best practices.

Opposition Leader Hubert Minnis last month lambasted the government saying the sealed details and secretive tactics are similar to a “dictatorial” style government.

Minnis would go on to add that the Free National Movement is committed to enacting A Freedom of Information Act that would make it unlawful for the Government to make secret deals with foreign entities and then run to the courts to protect its secrecy.

Early this year local advocacy groups criticized the government’s “decided lack of interest” in passing and implementing a Freedom of Information Act, and called for greater public participation on the proposed legislation.

The government then enacted Public consultations beginning in May of this year with town hall meetings held in New Providence and Grand Bahama, Abaco, Eleuthera and Exuma over a six week period.

A FOIA was passed in early 2012 by the former Ingraham administration months before the last general election. However, there was no date for enactment.

Mr. Fitzgerald has previously said the implementation of the FOIA will cost about $2m.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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