Citizens for a Better Bahamas (CBB) applauded the government’s decision to allocate $1 million in the upcoming budget for the rollout of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.
Chairman Lemarque Campbell said, The Bahamas has made significant inroads with the passing of the act earlier this year and the funding, he said, signals the first step toward much-needed progress.
“What we need to ensure now is that an information commissioner is appointed who will ensure that the guidelines of the act are properly implemented so we can truly see Freedom of Information at work in the country,” Campbell said.
He also identified what he believes will be the biggest challenge in implementation.
“I think the act itself would only be as effective as the public allows it to be,” he said.
“The public has a major role to play … we need more public education so they know how important it is and how to utilize it.”
Campbell explained that each government ministry or department will require an information officer responsible for accepting requests and allocating responses to the public.
“One important provision is Section 47 of the act that addresses whistleblowers protection. Civil servants should rest assured that they are protected and they will not be subject to any sanctions legally or others,” he said.
Campbell also addressed the government’s recent announcement of increasing value-added tax (VAT) from 7.5 per cent to 12 per cent and noted that the New Zealand consultants, who advised the former administration on the implementation of VAT, recommended that FOIA be in place as well as fiscal responsibility legislation, and that did not happen.
“ You can see the effect of not having them in place … there has been a lack of accountability and a rise in government spending,” he said.
“The public can use these tools to ensure that transparency reigns. Once someone knows that you are looking at them they are going to think twice about over spending or corruption so we have to ensure that these acts are in place.”