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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Familiar refrains on FOI

A flurry of information commissioner annual reports have hit the news overseas in the last couple of days.

Canada's Federal Information Commission gave a fail grade to the Prime Minister's Department, the Canadian mounties, the Justice Department, Health Canada and Transport Canada, for dragging their feet on freedom of information requests. Apart from these failures the Commissioner also says
"Too often access is denied to hide wrong doing, or to protect officials or governments from embarrassment rather than to serve a legitimate confidentiality requirement".
Still in Canada, the Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner echoes these thoughts but she is sounding a message:
"After 20 years of experience with the Freedom of Information legislation the learning curve is over and bureaucrats should be farther ahead" she said after releasing her report. "Surely the time for secrecy and withholding information should have come to an end by now. When people come to the Government for information, too many bureaucrats are looking for excuses not to release it, instead of following the spirit of the legislation".
Meanwhile in Ireland the Information Commissioner in her report has again criticised the blanket exclusions of agencies such as the police from freedom of information legislation.

Some of the themes (but not the complete exclusion of police services) have resonance here.

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