St Helena Government (SHG) already provides accurate and timely information to the public in many ways – including through routine publishing of public information and by interaction with the media – as part of open and transparent Government.
Where information held by SHG is not already in the public domain, the general public can already, and does, make various requests to St Helena Government for information, and such requests are normally dealt with by the relevant Directorate.
From today, 1 September 2014, SHG streamlines that approach and offers a central point of enquiry – under its new Code of Practice for Public Access to SHG Information. The Code of Practice can be viewed at: http://www.sainthelena.gov.sh/public-access-to-information/
The Code draws on access to information policies and legislation in the UK (e.g. FOI) and other island states.
The new Code deals with public requests for SHG information where that information is not already available by other means. So, the code does not replace the handling of routine requests from the public or the media by telephone, by e-mail or face to face, etc. These routine day to day requests to Government will continue to be dealt with simply and quickly through the normal channels.
But where members of the public wish to see information held by SHG, where it is not already available by other means – then they can from today make a request under the new Code of Practice for Public Access to SHG Information.
Councillor Ian Rummery said:
‘Freedom of Information was a major topic of discussion during the Election campaign last year, and the new Code of Practice for Public Access to SHG Information is an important part of SHG’s openness and transparency agenda. The Code will be kept under review and will be audited after six months to see how it has been used and what, if any, improvements can be made. Some information cannot be released to the public but this Code does offer a sensible and workable framework for the public to make requests, and requires SHG to explain where information cannot be released.’
Councillors will provide advice and assistance where needed to help constituents who wish to make requests under this procedure.
St Helena Government’s presumption will be for disclosure, and information will be provided unless one or more of the Exceptions in the Code applies. Again, these Exceptions draw on UK and international best practice, and they are important because St Helena Government, like all Governments, recognises that it does need to respect confidentiality between parties and has a duty to protect privacy and certain information.
The Code applies to all information held with proprietary rights by SHG, regardless of who produced or supplied the information and subject to the Exceptions listed in the Code. The Code requires all SHG employees dealing with requests to ensure that any request received from the public for information and made under the Code of Practice for Public Access to SHG Information, is dealt with in compliance with the Code.
From today, all requests for SHG information made under the Code of Practice, should be sent, in writing, directly to the Executive Manager Corporate Services, SHG, at the Castle, or by e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
1 September 2014