Over the past years, at least three Governors have more or less repeated two paragraphs in their Speeches from the Throne. The paragraphs often have to deal with two particular legislation – Consumer Protection, and the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill.
Today, September 13 was no different, where Governor Jaspert in his Speech from the Throne said that Government will seek to include the Freedom of Information Bill, which will guide how people can access public records and it will outline the exempted categories.
"This piece of legislation will allow for increased transparency and accountability of public affairs. The Bill includes recommendations for the establishment of a Freedom of Information Unit to provide the public with the appropriate administrative mechanism to make and receive requests," he said.
During his last sit down with the media in July, Governor Jaspert said, “Speeches from the Throne often include sections that get repeated. I don’t think that’s a good thing. I think when [promises] are made they should be delivered on. So, the Freedom of Information Act is something that I support.”
Of the two belaboured promises, the Freedom of Information Bill is most emphasized. Governor Jaspert already made the promise in his first Speech from the Throne that was delivered on March 1 this year. In that speech, Governor Jaspert said, “During this Session, the Freedom of Information Bill will be introduced by our Government. The Bill will include the guidelines for how people can access public records and it will outline the exempted categories.”
During his July sit down with the media, he was asked for an update and said, “I hope that when we get back from summer break it will be brought forward.”
A Freedom of Information Bill will allow public access to documents or other data in the possession of government, and at least two former Governors and members of the Opposition expressed interest in seeing the legislation passed.
Former Governor John Duncan on various occasions announced that the introduction of a FOI will be a step in the right direction for the BVI. Duncan’s last mention of the need for the Bill was made during the September 22, 2016 Speech from the Throne.
During that Speech from the Throne, Governor Duncan also mentioned that the Bill was being reviewed.
"The Freedom of Information Bill is being reviewed to ensure its mandates can be successfully carried out in light of imminent legislation to be passed for e-Government and Data Protection," he said.