Information Commissioner Issues 7 Decisions

March 14, 2024 | 0 Comments

Information Commissioner Gitanjali Gutierrez recently issued seven decisions.

A spokesperson said, “In Decision 03/2024, Cabinet Office, the Information Commissioner considered a request for records about fintech and the Fintech Business Unit and Office. Before conducting a reasonable search for all of the records sought, the Cabinet Office concluded that it did not hold any responsive records and transferred the request to another public authority. Some of the requested records related to the Cabinet Office’s fintech responsibilities from the formation of the Fintech Unit in 2018 through November 2020, at which point fintech responsibilities were transferred to the Economic Development Department. The Information Commissioner found that the Cabinet Office was not fully justified in transferring the request for these records without first conducting a search for them. The Information Commissioner upheld the Cabinet Office’s transfer of the rest of the PATI request. As a result, the Cabinet Office has been ordered to conduct a reasonable search for records related to the Cabinet Office’s fintech responsibilities and to issue a new initial decision to the Applicant by 10 April.

“In Decision 05/2024, Cabinet Office, the Applicant had made a PATI request for records relating to the Commission of Inquiry into Historic Land Loss in Bermuda, which was appointed by the Premier in October 2019. The Applicant was specifically seeking records related to the resignation of the former Senior Counsel to the Commission in October 2020, prior to the conclusion of the Commission. Although the request was originally made to the Commission of Inquiry, after the expiration of the Commission in July 2021, the Commission’s records were transferred to the Cabinet Office. The Cabinet Office denied access to the records because they contained legal advice and would be considered privileged.

“In her Decision, the Information Commissioner upheld the Cabinet Office’s decision that most of the records were exempt because they were communications protected by legal advice privilege. With regard to one record, however, the Information Commissioner found that only part of it was protected by legal advice privilege. She found that the remainder of the record contained personal information but that the public interest required disclosure of part of that record. The Information Commissioner ordered the Cabinet Office to disclose that part of the record to the Applicant by 11 April.

“In Decision 06/2024, Ministry of Youth, Social Development and Seniors Headquarters, the Applicant requested records about the litigation guardian panel as announced in 2020. Specifically, the Applicant requested several records including correspondence relating to the setting-up of the litigation guardian panel, contracts for the litigation guardian panel members, training information of panel members, payment details of two panel members and finally, communications relating to panel members who were public officers and how they could manage their panel work alongside their full-time roles.

“Ministry Headquarters received this request under a transfer from another public authority. After overcoming some challenges relating to the transferring of this request through several public authorities over a significant period of time, the Ministry Headquarters issued its internal review decision. In its decision, the Ministry Headquarters disclosed a record with some personal information removed and administratively denied access to the remaining records.

“In her Decision, the Information Commissioner affirmed the Ministry Headquarters’ decision to administratively deny the PATI request as additional responsive records could not be found after all reasonable steps were taken to locate them. However, the Information Commissioner ordered the Ministry Headquarters to disclose all 5 litigation guardian contracts with the names of litigation guardians and fee information left unredacted, by 11 April.

“In Decision 07/2024, Bermuda Police Service, the Information Commissioner considered a request for records relating to a legal advice report that an Assistant Commissioner of Police had sought as the investigator for an internal investigation into misconduct allegations. In response, the BPS refused access to the record on the basis that it contained privileged legal advice. In her Decision, the Information Commissioner affirmed that the BPS was justified in withholding access to the record and did not require the BPS to take any further action regarding the request.

“Additionally, the Information Commissioner issued three failure-to-decide decisions. In a ‘failure-to decide’ case, the Information Commissioner does not address the underlying records responsive to a PATI request. It is a decision on whether a public authority has responded to a request within the statutory timeframe. Once an internal review decision has been issued, if a PATI requester is not satisfied with the public authority’s response, they may seek an independent review by the Information Commissioner of that substantive decision. It is at that stage that the Information Commissioner will consider whether the public authority properly denied access to any requested records.

“On 27 February, Decision 02/2024, Corporation of Hamilton was issued which considered the Corporation’s failure to issue an internal review on a request for records relating to Savvy Entertainment along with any communications between the Corporation’s employees and Savvy Entertainment. On 28 February, the Information Commissioner issued Decision 04/2024, Cabinet Office, which considered the Cabinet Office’s failure to issue an internal review on a request for communications related to the cybersecurity incident which affected the Government’s information technology system in September 2023. On 1 March, Decision 08/2024, Bermuda Police Service was issued which considered the BPS’s failure to issue an internal review on a request for records relating to non-disclosure agreements related to the execution of a search warrant.

“Information Commissioner Gutierrez found that the Corporation, the Cabinet Office and the BPS did not issue internal review decisions within the 6-week timeline set out in the PATI Act. However, the Corporation and the BPS issued internal review decisions to the Applicants during the Information Commissioner’s independent review. The Commissioner has ordered the Cabinet Office to issue its internal review decision by 27 March.”

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