ICO renews calls to allow Pati requests to be made anonymously
The Information Commissioner has renewed her call for residents to be able to make Public Access To Information requests anonymously.
Gitanjali Gutierrez made the recommendation following a survey which suggested just one third of people who submit Pati requests are confident that their name will be kept confidential.
In her annual report, which can be read here, Ms Gutierrez said that only 34 per cent of respondents to the survey – which was conducted by the Information Commissioner’s Office – believed that a public authority would safeguard their right to confidentiality.
Ms Gutierrez said: “Such low confidence in this aspect of public authorities’ Pati practice could be immediately remedied by allowing individuals to make Pati requests anonymously.
“It would also support the Government’s 2019 strategic plan for government reform by increasing public trust and promoting transparency”.
“As the Government considers amending the Pati Act, any process impacting the rights of Bermudians and residents should involve robust and open public consultation, with input received from both public authorities and the general public.
“The Government has an opportunity to use the consultation process to build public trust and demonstrate a commitment to meaningful citizen engagement and good governance”
In her report, Ms Gutierrez noted another “concerning trend” – a “substantial increase” in public authorities failing to provide internal review decisions on Pati requests.
She said: “These failures raise concerns about public authorities’ ability to meet the basic requirements of the Pati Act.
“Improvements can be achieved through appropriate support for information officers and by the use of existing resources more effectively and efficiently.”
According to the report, 135 Pati requests were made in 2021 – a 16 per cent increase on the previous year.
Almost half – 48 per cent – resulted in access being granted to public records.
There were 39 new applications for an independent review by the Information Commissioner – an 86 per cent increase on 2020.
According to Ms Gutierrez, the report is “ripe with evidence that Bermudians and residents are using their Pati rights to gain access to more detailed information about public decisions that affect their families, community, businesses and future.
She added: “Every Pati request submitted is demonstrating that Bermudians and residents are closely observing public decisions, policies and spending.
“Each public disclosure under the Pati Act provides the public access to information that further strengthens Bermudians and residents’ ability to engage meaningfully with those that govern and make public decisions on their behalf.”