Sat | Mar 17, 2018

Public-sector officers get access to information training

Published:Friday | October 7, 2016 | 12:00 AM

In an effort to build the capacity of public-sector officers to respond to requests for information made pursuant to the Access to Information Act (2002), the Access to Information (ATI) Unit in the Office of the Prime Minister recently trained some 33 ATI responsible officers from government ministries, departments and agencies. Another batch will undergo training later this year.

The Access to Information Act gives members of the public the right to access information held by public authorities. There are some 85 officers deployed throughout the public sector charged with administering requests made under the ATI Act.

Shereika Hemmings-Allison, senior legal officer in the Office of the Prime Minister with interim oversight responsibility for the ATI Unit, notes, "The ATI responsible officers are at the forefront of service delivery as it relates to the ATI Act. As a result, it is important that the unit, in keeping with its mandate, undertakes training to deepen the officers' knowledge and understanding of the Act and to enhance customer service delivery."

She said that a significant number of ATI officers throughout the sector worked tirelessly to meet the information requests that come into the government ministries, departments and agencies on a daily basis. It is acknowledged, however, that there have been concerns raised by the public regarding instances of extensive delays in meeting requests as well as other issues.

Speaking at the opening of the training, principal director in the Office of the Prime Minister, Sonia Hyman, urged the officers to take advantage of the training, as it provides strategic insights and practical thinking which will equip them, the practitioners, with the skills and competencies to carry out their professional and regulatory obligations.

Hyman reminded the officers that the Government of Jamaica has embarked on a five-year records and information management programme, which will also help to enhance their work.

She added that the draft Government of Jamaica Records and Information Management Policy has been developed and will be submitted to Cabinet shortly.

"The expected outcome is standardising the management of official data and information as a platform for increased data-sharing and accessibility for service delivery and policy-making in all ministries," Hyman explained.

Tamara Crooks, ATI responsible officer at the National Water Commission, and Wendy Duncan, legal officer at the Fair Trading Commission, both, said the training was informative, relevant and effective.