Opinion Column: Senator Diallo Rabain On PATI

March 7, 2014

[Opinion column written by PLP Senator Diallo Rabain]

In 2008 a private campaign called “Right to Know: Giving People Power” was launched. The purpose of this campaign was to pressure the government of Bermuda into creating some form of PATI [Public Access to Information] process. This campaign was announced with much fanfare and gained vocal support from members of the public.

In July 2010, the Progressive Labour Party passed the PATI Act and began putting the necessary framework in place to create an office for it within the Cabinet office.

While progress was made to get PATI going between the passing of the Act and the end of 2012, things seemed to come to grinding halt after the OBA took office. Despite Premier Cannonier announcing in March 2013 that staff would be hired in the coming fiscal year, a mere $80,000 of the $335,000 that was allocated was spent.

Take a comparative look:

  • In 2011/12 budget year, $210,000 and 3 staff members were allocated to the newly formed department of PATI.
  • In 2012/13 budget year $344,000 and 3 staff members were budgeted.
  • In 2013/14 budget year $335,000 and 3 staff members were budgeted.
  • However, for the 2014/15 budget year the funding has dropped to $146,000 and staff cut to 1.

It would seem the OBA deems PATI as unneeded or unwanted.

To some, there is no coincidence the “Right to Know campaign” seemed to end the day the OBA took office. However it is extremely disconcerting that such an important act, one that was called for, no demanded, with such fervour since 2008, has been allowed to slowly be marginalized by the OBA.

Recent activities by the OBA have made it clear that the need for such an Act continues to exist and that it should be enacted swiftly and without delay. Events such as:

  • JetGate
  • The OBA refusing to release the National Infrastructure Plan to the public. A plan that could create jobs for Bermudians has apparently been hidden away from the public eye.
  • The OBA consistently refusing to answer Parliamentary Questions or providing incomplete or inadequate information to legitimate questions about taxpayer funded government activities
  • The ending of the PLP’s policy of publishing the details of government contracts valued over $50k, as it relates to who bid on them and who was awarded the contract.
  • Budget overruns to the tune of $45 Million dollars and not one supplemental submitted to the legislature to account for these funds.

A fully operational PATI Office would help to not only keep the government more accountable, but do much to restore the people’s confidence in our government. A reduction in spending of 76% in the same year the Premier says “…staff will be hired…” shows this government’s lack of commitment to PATI in 2013. In fact, it would seem that little work, if any was accomplished in 2013 despite what was said in March 2013.

Fast forward a year and we find the Premier repeating himself in March 2014 about PATI. This year a Commissioner is to be recruited in the 2nd Quarter of 2014 and amendments will be laid in the House in summer 2014.

We have heard a similar commitment to PATI before a year ago. So all we can do it wait and see if we will be back here again in 2015 hearing the same progress report, or if this government is really serious about PATI.

The Truth must come to light.

- Diallo Rabain

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Comments (16)

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  1. Joonya says:

    Sheekums man, in the past year these guys have done more work than they ever did during 1998-2012… Oh yah thats right, no laurels to rest on..

  2. In the nick of time... says:

    Let me guess – someone is going to say “oh yeah well the PLP lost this much money so there!” “Now you wanty to talk about freedom of information?”

    Opposite sides of the same wicked coin…

    How about this – as a public servant all Business you conduct Private (yes even your own business – because as a business owner that is also a politician, one is privy to information many in the general public have no ideas of) or in the “public interest” should be video monitored and whitnessed – ANY BREACH, ANY MEETING not on record requires immediate removal from cabinet.

    There is your PATI…make these people accountable in the same way I hope you are accountable in your own lives…

  3. Onion says:

    So long story short, the PLP spent lots of money and still didn’t manage to get it done.

    Just like everything else.

    • Kangoocar says:

      @onion, was thinking the exact same thing while I was reading the article??? So we can conclude that the plp wasted approx $1million on this with nothing to show for it??? Just what was those 3 doing all that time???
      The amount of accomplishments the OBA have in fact done in their short time is nothing short of a miracle and keep in mind the constant daily distractions of the plp they have too deal with!!! Oh and let’s not forget the plp Heritage Wharf disaster they had to deal with as well, that in itself probably accounts for most of the overspend, funny how the plp have short memories on some things????

      • Edmund Spenser says:

        The other interesting thing to note, if you want to be completely honest and transparent on the Budget overspend, when you include all the sub-totals shows a total budget overspend in the 1.4 mill range. Yes, the general expense total was over budget, but the capital spend was under budget and the tax revenue was over budget. When you are open, honest and transparent the total on line 25 on the consolidated accounts shows a total overspend of 1.4 mill.

        • Kangoocar says:

          Thank you Edmund, I can assure you the only thing you will here from the plp camp on that, is tree frogs whistling???? They only choose to learn what is convenient to themselves!!!

  4. Jeremy Deacon says:

    I don’t usually comment on issues surrounding The Royal Gazette, but I have to on this one.
    The ‘private’ campaign referred to was the Right to Know campaign launched by the RG because of the slowness in getting PATI legislation actually enacted – the Senator overlooks the fact that it was first proposed by Alex Scott, many years before the act was actually passed.
    A campaign always seeks a victory – that was achieved when the act was passed. The campaign achieved its purpose, why, at that point, should it have continued?
    There are always those who look for conspiracy theories – there are none here.
    While I was still at the paper, I was talking to a member of the editorial staff about resurrecting the campaign because things had gone quiet (you really have to know the full pictures before theorizing).
    I left and I guess a certain amount of impetus was lost, however I do know, and I don’t think I am giving anything away, that there are ambitions still to restart the Right to Know campaign.
    As a side note, there is a certain amount of hypocrisy here as well.
    When the campaign was launched it was thoroughly derided by the PLP. We were told that a newspaper had no right to launch a campaign such as the Right to Know.
    I well remember it being the focus of two hours of debate on Hott with then Senator Burch playing a leading role. It was the best two hours of free publicity we could have hoped for at the time.
    Will it be similarly derided if the paper launches it again?

    • Sandy Bottom says:

      Interesting comment. I can recall a leaflet delivered to every house when Alex Scott was Premier, promising PATI. That would have been in about 2004. Here we are ten years later.

  5. Navin Johnson says:

    The PLP “talked”about PATI for years and did ZERO and now It is news ….guess there is not much chance they will just go away is there?…….I am all for PATI going back in time to uncover all of the dirt……

  6. jt says:

    Unsurprising assessment by the Senator.

  7. JD says:

    So the party that oversaw a simply ridiculous increase in the country’s debt is now trying to tell the new government that they aren’t spending enough money…on PATI. Seriously what planet are these guys on?

    I’m all for PATI, but come on, we are continuing to spend hundreds of millions more than we receive and you want to spend more?

    Oh and Diallo I really REALLY hate any attempt by an author to try and put words in someone else’s mouth as in “it would seem the OBA deems PATI as unneeded or unwanted”.

    Maybe the OBA is a little more focused on keeping the freaking lights on thanks to your party’s absolutely reckless and sustained mismanagement of the country’s books.

  8. 32n64w says:

    I think the Senator needs to cast his mind back a few more years if he wants to be honest about PATI. From LiB:

    “In November 2003, then-Premier Alex Scott pledged that the PLP government would introduce freedom of information legislation.

    In July 2004, Mr. Scott said that Public Access To Information legislation would likely be tabled early in the next Parliament.

    That didn’t happen, but in a discussion paper presented to the legislature in 2005, the Government said:

    “The Government hopes that PATI legislation can be introduced in the House of Assembly within the next 12 to 18 months… Ultimately, the Government hopes to achieve implementation within 3 to 5 years of the PATI legislation being passed.”

    • Dark Side of the Moon says:

      Typical of the PLP didn’t do much, but sure knew how to spend our money!

  9. Truth is killin' me... says:

    Shoe’s on the other foot now!

  10. watchin says:

    Yes Diallo, well said………………the truth must come to light in many ways.

  11. nuffin but the truth says:

    Diallo you just opened another can of snakes that will bite you in the @$$!