FOIA Fine Reduced, Access Modified

Friday 17th, February 2012 / 10:40 Published by

Information

The modified Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill tabled in the Senate last week includes changes to the law’s date of enforcement and reduces the fine an offender will face for contravening the legislation.

The old FOI Bill, which was withdrawn, said the legislation would come into force on July 1 of this year. The new Bill does not have a date for enforcement, but instead leaves that decision up to the minister responsible.

The fine for breaking the law was amended from $100,000 to $10,000.

The government has also modified who can request information made public under the law.

Only a Bahamian citizen or permanent resident will have a right to access records that are not exempt.

The old bill noted that “every person shall have a right to obtain access to a record other than an exempt record”.

Senators were expected to debate the new bill yesterday. However, they debated amendments to the Parliamentary Elections Act.

The new Freedom of Information Bill has not yet been debated in the House of Assembly. The old Bill still has to be withdrawn from the floor of the Lower Chamber.

On Tuesday, Tommy Turnquest, leader of government business in the House, said the legislation would be passed by Parliament “before the next election”.

“We believe that all government business should be public,” Turnquest said.

However, several areas of government business will be exempt from the FOI legislation, including records that would prejudice the country’s security; confidential communication to the government by or on behalf of a foreign jurisdiction or international organization, which could jeopardize the security of a prison, and Cabinet papers.

In its 2007 Manifesto, the Free National Movement pledged to enact FOI legislation if elected to office. The original bill was tabled in the House of Assembly last October.

The Nassau Guardian

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