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LESTER MORTIMER QC WRITES THAT THE FREEDOM OF INFO ACT IS NOT ALL IT’S CRACKED UP TO BE

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viagra usa no rx times;”>lmortimerThe FNM and their operatives have been all around the country making an issue about the lack of the Freedom of Information Act.  Hubert Ingraham just before he left office passed an unwieldy and expensive to administer act which was so cumbersome that it  as impossible to implement.  The PLP has not implemented it.  We are opposed to it ourselves.  This letter by Lester Mortimer explains why it isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be and the its benefits are more apparent than real.— Editor

discount cialis times;”>Our Ref:  LJM/ejma/

 

January 21, 2015

 

BY E-MAIL

 

 

 

 

Dear Editor,                

 Re: VAT & the Proposed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

 

           By your medium, I wish to ask the Radio Talk Show pundits and some of the political leaders to explain to the consumers and merchants how a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) would help them with Value Added Tax (VAT)?  As part of their cry that a FOIA will help us with VAT, some also say that they do not know how the money collected from VAT will be spent or cannot trust the Government to spend the same.  More recently, even my Bishop is reported to have called for the Government to give a proper account of how taxpayer’s money will be spent with the introduction of VAT.  In reading the actual text of the Bishop’s speech, it become clear that he did not actually say these words.

 

           Like all other taxes, VAT is required to be paid into the Consolidated Fund (see Section 12(9) of the VAT Act).  Each year the Minister of Finance by Article 130(1) of the Constitution is required to introduce in the House of Assembly an Appropriation Bill containing, under appropriate heads for the several services required, the estimated aggregated sums which are proposed to be expended (otherwise than by way of statutory  expenditure) during that financial year.

           In recent years, it has been the practice for the Minister of Finance to table in the House of Assembly the Appropriation Bill and other budgetary documents (the Budget) on the last Wednesday of May.  The Budget, inter alia, sets out how the Government revenues are to be spent in the following year.  It must be noted that the Budget is debated by both Houses of Parliament in the month of June to coincide with the fiscal year which begins the first of July. 

            Any person concerned with how our taxes are being spent need only read the budget documents or listen to the Parliamentary debate on the same. 

           While a FOIA in certain circumstances can be helpful to inform the public on certain matters, it is not the answer to or a magic wand for the myriad of issues facing the country.  The pundits would appear not to have noticed or appreciated that Part III of the FOIA Bill exempted 10 classes of records from disclosure

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. Furthermore, those who are expounding the implementation of a FOIA should consider certain provisions of the Freedom of Information Bill 2012 and in particular the new bureaucracy that will be needed to give effect to that Bill or any other and the cost of implementing the same.  It may be more helpful to us at this time to require the Government to establish fully the Public Procurement Department as provided for in the 2013 Amendment to the Financial Administration and Audit Act 2010.

 

           Thank you in advance for publishing the same.

 

 

Yours faithfully, 

Lester J. Mortimer, Jr., QC

 

P.S.  The 10 exempted classes of records are as follows:

 

           1. Records affecting security, defence or international relations, etc.

           2. Records relating to law enforcement;

           3. Records subject to legal privilege etc;

           4. Records effecting national economy;

           5. Records revealing Government’s deliberative processes;

           6. Prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs;

           7. Records relating to commercial interests;

           8. Records relating to heritage sites, etc.;

           9. Records relating to personal information; and

           10. Records likely to endanger health and safety.