JAMAICANS FOR JUSTICE AND ATI STAKEHOLDERS COMMITTEE MAKE SUBMISSIONS

Members of the Access To Information Stakeholders Committee and non-governmental organizations Jamaicans For Justice, Jamaica Environment Trust, the Independent Jamaican Council on Human Rights, among others, will be making presentations to the Joint Select Committee of Parliament that is reviewing the Access To information Act 2902, tomorrow, Wednesday, February 15, 2006 at 10.00 a.m. at the Houses of Parliament. Jamaicans For Justice has been monitoring requests over the last two years, in conjunction with a group of ATI NGO users known as the ATI Consortium, and based on information from a specially designed database is in a position to make informed comment on the performance of the Act to date. Jamaicans For Justice and the groups making presentations have assessed the Act as to its efficiency and effectiveness, and have identified areas of weakness and strengths. One of the main concerns is that six months after the resignation of the Executive Officer and the Public Relations Officer of the Access To Information Unit, these posts have not been filled and this has seriously hampered the smooth implementation and monitoring of the Act. Other areas of concerns include: difficulties of persons in rural Jamaica have to pay for photocopies and receipt of documents  no provision is made for this; the lack of an independent Secretariat for the Appeals Tribunal, with only part-time staff, has severely impacted on its performance, among others. The submissions are to encourage Government to make changes where clearly the Act would be compromised if left as is, and also to make recommendations as to how to improve the Act. Members of the Access To Information Stakeholders Committee and the Access To Information Consortium believe that the Access To Information Act is a very important tool in the decision-making process and to good governance. The Access To Information Act is a bold step by the Government in its quest to be accountable and transparent, but unless the concerns of non-governmental organizations and civil society are taken seriously and changes made, the integrity of the Act could be compromised.