Freedom Of Information Requests Not So Transparent

[ 0 ] January 12, 2015 |

access to information cartoonAh, the precious Freedom of Information Act.  The name inspires confidence that those we elect and those who work in government agencies are subject to our scrutiny.   This is supposed to keep everyone honest, above board and accountable.  Apparently.

Good idea on paper.  Not so much in practice.

As we have seen, the Ontario Liberals aren’t too happy when they have to fess up to their actions.  They’re not exactly forthcoming when it comes to their goings on, their agency dealings, nor producing emails and work product from their government computers.

Enter another instance in a long laundry list of government ineptitude and arrogance.  It appears that they are getting forewarned about potentially “troublesome” information that has to be released during a freedom of information request.

Between the trickeries and mischief that gets played while trying to deny FOI requests and the overt monkey-business tactics when hiding behind the Privacy Act, – it’s a wonder that the public, the opposition parties or any reporting agency gets any information.  They do, but as PC MPP Michael Harris, the transportation critic for the PC Party has indicated, it leaves far too many doors opened to political interference in the process.

“I’ve got grave concerns that all of these folks are being tipped off and making us chase our tails to get information that should be at the public’s disposal,” he said.  “It’s so they can create a public relations or communications plan ahead any possible damning information that can come out of these.”

This was NEVER supposed to be the spirit of the FOI Act, nor how the Privacy Act was supposed to be applied.  But, it is applied in just that manner.

Potential information about embarrassing, politically explosive or indication of incompetence, (that may be revealed through Freedom of Information requests), are systematically set through a labyrinth in an effort to stymie any actual dissemination of information to said requests.  When they can’t hinder the information that way, they will then try to claim that any information that may have been said by someone, emailed by someone, or been work product of anyone in government is then placed in yet more hurdles of non-release because it somehow breaches their right to “privacy”.  Again, neither Act was meant to be applied in the pre-emptive manner that it is being used.   It was not meant to be something to save political butts.  But that unfortunately is how it’s more often than not, used… and abused.

If by some stroke of luck politically bad information does have to be revealed, those with their names or ministries attached to it, are given a head start on how to save face, and concoct their spin.

Both the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act are now tools used to try to obstruct any information being discovered about governmental operations and potential misdeeds.  Both Acts need to be sent back to the drawing board and amended with strict new guidelines about how the government cannot use them to prevent scrutiny by the public into government business.

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Category: WTF