Oct 09, 2016 News
By Kiana Wilburg
Since the appointment of former Chief Justice, Charles Ramson Snr. as Commissioner of Information in 2013, Parliament is yet to receive a report on the application of the Access to Information Act as well as the operations of his office.
While Parliament is left in the dark about the work of the Commissioner of Information, Ramson Snr. continues to draw a salary of approximately $1.2M a month.
According to the Act governing Ramson’s office, the responsible Minister, should, “as soon as practicable but not later than nine months, after the end of each year lay a report on the operation of this (Access to Information) Act in the National Assembly.”
The Act also states that the said report should include the number of requests made to the Commissioner of Information; the number of applications for judicial review of decisions and the outcome of those applications; the number of complaints made to the Commissioner of Information with respect to the operation of the Act and the nature of those complaints; the number of notices served upon the Commissioner of Information and the number of decisions by the Commissioner which were adverse to the person’s claim.
Former Prime Minister, Samuel Hinds, was the one responsible for laying such a report once received from the Commissioner. But efforts to contact him regarding why this was not done, proved futile.
Chartered Accountant, Anand Goolsarran, also did his independent checks on the Commissioner of Information and the work of his office. Goolsarran noted that the handing over of annual reports to the National Assembly is a key requirement of the law.
He said that the failure of the Commissioner’s office in this regard stymies any effort to carry out an assessment on the effectiveness of the Access to Information Act. The former Auditor General said this is a significant shortcoming in attempts to provide citizens and organisations with access to information of government programmes and activities.
Since its establishment, there have been a few requests for access to certain documents from the Commissioner of Information.
It was in January last that Opposition Leader, Bharat Jagdeo, told the National Assembly that he would be asking the Commissioner of Information to release the names of members of the Government who did not file their returns with the Integrity Commission. Jagdeo confirmed yesterday that he did send a letter to Ramson’s office.
Both the PPP General Secretary , Clement Rohee and Opposition Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira confirmed yesterday that they were not aware of a response from Ramson to date.
A few months ago, there was also a request made by Transparency Institute Guyana Inc.(TIGI) for certain information regarding Minister of State, Joseph Harmon. But this was not granted.
Kaieteur News understands that based on a mutual agreement with the Government, Ramson has since moved from the Ministry of the Presidency and is currently operating from his East Street residence.
Additionally, there have been accusations to the effect that Ramson has not been forthcoming when requests are made to him by members of the public. However, Ramson is of the opinion that it is the public that is not making use of him as he has received less than 16 applications since he assumed the position.
He has since made several appeals to the Government to procure an impartial space for him to carry out his duties along with the necessary staffing arrangements.
Kaieteur News made efforts to contact Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, who is in charge of matters regarding access to information. But Minister Nagamootoo is currently in India.
Acting until his return is Foreign Affairs Minister, Carl Greenidge who expressed deep concern about the matter.
Greenidge who has spoken on numerous occasions about the importance of access to information over the years committed to look into the issue.
Greenidge said that while his passionate views on the topic remain unchanged, he will make efforts to ascertain why Ramson did not ensure reports were laid in the National Assembly as stipulated by the law.
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