Two-and-a-half years after Pati request – HRC told to reconsider decision
The Human Rights Commission has been told to reconsider a decision to withhold records under public access to information laws.
Information Commissioner Gitanjali Gutierrez ordered the independent body to issue a new decision by November 3 to The Royal Gazette, which requested the records two and a half years ago.
The HRC, which receives $1.2 million annually from the public purse, had rejected in full the newspaper’s Pati request for the minutes of its commissioners’ meetings held between July 2018 to March 2019.
It did so on the basis that the Pati Act does not apply to records obtained or created by the HRC in the course of carrying out its functions.
But Ms Gutierrez said that this section of the law was not applicable to records relating to the general administration of the HRC. She found that some of the records requested fell into that category.
The commissioner said: “From a good governance perspective, the Pati Act strikes a balance between the protection of independent offices and the importance of public accountability and transparency …
“Further, although section four excludes certain records of the listed public authorities from the scope of the Pati Act, it does not excuse a public authority from complying with the Pati Act.
“In other words, section four does not exclude a public authority, only certain records, from the Pati Act’s scope. Complete exclusion of an authority from the scope of the Pati Act would limit the public’s ability to hold that entity accountable.”
She added that some parts of the two records the commission identified as falling within the scope of the Pati request could potentially be disclosed, as they related to general administrative functions.
Ms Gutierrez ordered the commission to reconsider whether those parts should be disclosed “in the normal manner” or whether there were grounds for an administrative denial, under other exemptions in the Pati Act.
The HRC is required by law to produce an annual report. Its most recent was tabled in the House of Assembly in July.