Information Commissioner’s PATI 2016 Report

June 8, 2018 | 0 Comments

The Information Commissioner’s Office Annual Report 2016 has been released, highlighting the operation of the Public Access to Information [PATI].

The statement released with the report said, “Information Commissioner Gitanjali S. Gutierrez’s Annual Report 2016 on the operation of the Public Access to Information [PATI] Act has been tabled in both Houses of Parliament and is now available to the public.

“The Information Commissioner’s Annual Report 2016 presents statistics on the number of PATI requests public authorities have received and the operation of the Act from 1 January 2016 to 31 December 2016. The Report also highlights the accomplishments of the Information Commissioner’s Office [ICO] from 1 January 2016 through 31 March 2017.

“This includes the outcomes of work to strengthen, and to enforce, the right of access to public records. In 2016, public authorities reported receiving 144 new PATI requests.

“Public authorities granted access to all or parts of the records in at least 91 of those requests, or 63%. The most common reason for refusing a request was an administrative denial because the record did not exist or could not be found.

“The public authorities with the highest number of new PATI request reported to the ICO were the Bermuda Police Services [30], the Ministry of Finance Headquarters [6], the Customs Department [8], the Bermuda College Board of Governors [6], the Health Department [6] and the Department of Immigration [5].

“The Government of Bermuda Ministry with the highest number of reported requests in 2016 [excluding Bermuda Police Services] was the Ministry of Finance and its related public authorities, with 18 requests received.

The Information Commissioner observed, “The 2016 statistics indicate that people particularly want to learn about how Bermuda Police Services and the Ministry of Finance operate and make their decisions. The PATI requests made to these entities help promote increasing transparency and accountability in these sectors”.

“The Information Commissioner’s Annual Report 2016 also shares details about the work of the Information Commissioner’s Office. The ICO engaged in twenty-two public education programs across Bermuda from January 2016 to March 2017.

“In September 2016, the Information Commissioner’s Office also launched its “Just Ask!” campaign for Right to Know Week, using a variety of media to reach the public.

“The ICO Facebook page reached over 55,700 people during the campaign. For the first time, the ICO also shares the results of its annual public awareness survey, conducted at the end of each fiscal year. Importantly, the number of residents who have heard of the PATI Act rose from 72% in March 2016 to 80% in March 2017.

“Other results from the annual survey provide insights into what people understand about the PATI Act. The Information Commissioner also issued four new ICO Guidances on exemptions in the PATI Act.

“These guidances assist public authorities to understand their obligations under the Act. The ICO logged 182 inquiries from the public and public authorities about how the PATI Act works.

“The Report outlines the Information Commissioner’s statistics for her 2016 investigations and reviews of public authorities’ PATI decisions. In 2016, the Information Commissioner received 32 new applications for a review from requesters who were dissatisfied with the public authorities’ actions [or inactions].

“The Information Commissioner issued her first decision in January 2016, which was followed by an additional four decisions during the year. The Report highlights these decisions and learning points.

“The Report also comments on the development of information rights in Bermuda. The Information Commissioner again stresses the need to ensure confidentiality of PATI requesters, and repeats the call to allow individuals to file PATI requests anonymously, by using a pseudonym, as the most effective way to protect confidentiality.

“The Report also offers commentary on the importance of the passage of the Personal Information Protection Act, which ensures that Bermuda now has the two core foundations for an information rights framework.

In her Welcome, the Information Commissioner observed, “Since the [PATI] Act 2010 went into effect in 2015, the words ‘openness’, ‘transparency’, and ‘accountability’ have been frequently invoked.

“Our country now faces the challenge, though, to understand what these words mean when put to the test in real life. Thousands of Bermudians, residents and employees of public authorities are just beginning to learn how the ‘right to know’ works in their day-to-day lives.”

“I recognise that the right to know is crucial for the ability of the public to understand how public bodies make decisions, to keep track of how public money is spent and to contribute to the democratic process.”

In looking ahead to the upcoming years, the Information Commissioner commented, “I will be encouraging both public authorities and the public to consider information as one of the most powerful assets they hold. A public authority’s choices about how it manages its information assets have a broad impact.

“Like financial assets, the proper management of information has the capacity to enrich individuals, companies, public authorities and Bermuda. Similarly, the mismanagement of information has the capacity to cause detriment.

“It can lead to uninformed decision making, cause harm to individuals or organisations and leave the public unable to engage effectively in public discourse. Recognition is growing that information represents a valued asset deserving of proper management”.

“The Annual Report 2016 is available at www.ico.bm or by emailing a request for a copy to info@ico.bm. Limited copies are available from the Information Commissioner’s Office at the Valerie T. Scott Building, 60 Reid Street, Hamilton.”

The 32-page Information Commissioner’s Office Annual Report 2016 follows below [PDF here]:

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