Local civic group Citizens for a Better Bahamas (CBB) yesterday submitted a suite of recommended changes to the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill, 2015 to the government, charging the government to broaden the scope of government and private organizations eligible for information disclosure.
Addressing Jerome Fitzgerald, the minister with responsibility for implementing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), CBB called on the government to change the definition of any “public authority” to include legislative, administrative and non-statutory bodies, as well as any private organizations operating with substantial public funds.
“For example, the Bahamas Environment, Science and Technology (BEST) Commission would not be covered by the current definition. The FOI Bill should also cover private organizations that operate with substantial public funds and perform public functions and services.
“If this is accepted, section 3(2)(c) should be deleted. This recommendation is based on section 3(d)(ii) of the Antigua and Barbuda FOI Act, 2004, which defines a public authority as a body ‘owned, controlled or substantially financed by the government from public funds’,” reads the CBB’s recommendations.
The government unveiled the 2015 Freedom of Information Bill in May. The updated legislation was praised for eliminating a provision within the previous 2012 FOI legislation that enabled government ministers to issue certifications of exemption from public disclosure. The 2012 FOIA was signed into law but never enforced.
The 2015 bill raised questions about the appointment of an information commissioner, who will be appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister following consultation with the leader of the opposition under the current draft.