More people using PATI to “empower themselves”
More than 100 requests for public access to information were made last year – an increase of 27 per cent on the year before.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) made the revelation in its annual report tabled in the House of Assembly.
But the report also noted that less than half of requests seeking information on Government business were granted “in whole or in part to the public records”.
In her report, Information Commissioner Gitanjali Gutierrez said that the need for public access to information had increased as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement included in the report, she said: “Our work in 2020 reflects six years of growth for the ICO since that time.
“When the global Covid-19 pandemic reached Bermuda’s shores, public decision makers navigated the people of Bermuda through an unprecedented time in history.
“The ongoing financial crisis that flowed from the pandemic reinforced that public access to information is a keystone for public accountability and transparency.
“Accurate and timely information from public authorities was, and continues to be, critical for both community and individual health, wellbeing and economic survival.
Ms Gutierrez said that more and more people were using the service to “empower themselves by using information that affects their personal wellbeing, family, business and community”.
She added: “In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, and with over two months of sheltering-in-place, Bermudians and residents still made 27 per cent more PATI requests than last year,
“As a small, nimble and adaptable oversight body, the ICO moves into 2021 well-equipped to safeguard the rights of PATI requesters and to provide guidance to public authorities.
“When an empowered public understands and exercises their PATI rights, public decision makers have a powerful opportunity to build and deepen trust among an engaged public. It’s an opportunity no government should ever take for granted.
“When public decision makers treat each decision as if the public has the right to know more about it, transparency and accountability will ultimately motivate and guide any action that they make.
“The Government’s response to the recommendations within my report and recommendations on the implementation of the PATI Act 2010 will demonstrate their commitment to and respect of the public’s legal right to know.
“I encourage every Bermudian and resident to stay informed, included and involved, because ultimately you have the right to know when something matters to you.”
The Information Commissioner’s 2020 annual report is available at www.ico.bm.