The controversial Freedom of Information Act amendment of clause 7 is going to be completely removed from the Misc Provisions (Tax Amnesty, Pensions, Freedom of Information, National Insurance, Central Bank and Non-Profit Organisations) Bill, 2019. Finance Minister Colm Imbert made the announcement last night at Parliament.
Many believe that Clause 7 was going to undermine the FOIA by allowing government to have too much control over the information requests. Many said the clause would provide government with power that far outweighs the public as it pertains to the FOIA.
Clause 7 proposed to allow government entities to triple the length of time to grant information to the public under the FOIA. The clause planned to move the original 30-day limit to 90 days.
The Clause also allowed government entities an expanded 180 days if they plan to deny the public’s request for information.
After public outrage Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi proposed to change the 90 day limit expansion to 45. This too was critiqued.
The proposed amendments of Clause 7 have been widely challenged and critiqued by the public, the opposition, and the media.
On June 11 the TT Chamber of Industry and Commerce (T&T Chamber) called on government to host public consultations on proposed reforms to (FOIA) but Al-Rawi saw these as not needed.
On June 10 the Law Association called Al-Rawi to postpone the debate on the Bill that proposed amendments to the FOIA.
The Media Association TT (MATT) president Sheila Rampersad also rejected the proposed amendments to the FOIA.
The deletion of clause 7 altogether will be seen as a victory for the public that clearly had its voice heard by government.