Public Sector Officers Trained in the Access to Information Law
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 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 work 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, Mrs. 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.
Mrs. 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”, Mrs. Hyman explained.
Miss Tamara Crooks, ATI Responsible Officer at the National Water Commission and Miss Wendy Duncan, Legal Officer at the Fair Trading Commission both said the training was informative, relevant and effective.
“As with any other legislation, the Access to Information (ATI) law must first be widely known in order to be effective and have a high level of compliance,” Miss Crooks said.
She added that the training was critical to sharpen the officers’ skills and to help build their capacity to educate the public on the legislation and in so doing encourage accountability and improved governance in the country.
Miss Duncan observed: “I liked the fact that the ATI workshop utilised straightforward examples and illustrations of challenges that officers might encounter in carrying out their duties effectively—all based on real life scenarios, and we were able to discuss practical tools and solutions for dealing with the issues.
“I also thought the practical exercises were very useful, and particularly appreciated the fact that the training was provided in an environment that made learning relaxing and pleasant, so that there was a high level of interaction on a voluntary basis,” Miss Duncan stated.
Contact: ATI Unit Office of the Prime Minister