Transparency Saint Helena

Arguing for improved access to the way government takes decisions. In short, the creation of a Freedom of Information Ordinance for St. Helena.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Confession time

As you may have noticed we don't seem to be updating this blog.

We have the usual excuses: pressure of work; too much other stuff going on; etc.

However we are updating the St. Helena Freedom of Information website as and when something changes, so your best bet is to check there.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Progress on Freedom of Information

There's lots of news and progress on Freedom of Information on St Helena Online and in this week's Independent:  The island's Human Rights Coordinator steps in to support our campaign a letter to every island councillor, requesting their views on Freedom of Information

Both these stories also feature in this week's St. Helena Independent

Thursday, September 6, 2012

UK Government promotes openness in Local Councils

This quote is from UK Government guidance issued to UK Local Councils:
There are recent stories about people being ejected from council meetings for blogging, tweeting or filming. This potentially is at odds with the fundamentals of democracy and I want to encourage all councils to take a welcoming approach to those who want to bring local news stories to a wider audience. The public should rightly expect that elected representatives who have put themselves up for public office be prepared for their decisions to be as transparent as possible and welcome a direct line of communication to their electorate. I do hope that you and your colleagues will do your utmost to maximise the transparency and openness of your council.

Oh, that they had written that to the St. Helena Government!

The quote comes from an interesting story about a journalist being arrested in Wales for filming local council proceedings.  Read the entire report here:

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Not in the spirit of Freedom of Information

I recently made a request to the government Press Office for some information.  I was actually after a few facts regarding the funding of the St. Helena Broadcasting (Guarantee) Corporation, the SHGBC.  Politically sensitive, maybe, but not exactly a matter of national security.  Under the UK Freedom of Information Act this information would have been readily available.  Indeed, I wouldn’t have needed to request it as it would have been published.

I was denied the information.  When I asked why, I was told: “In response to your below enquiry, having taken legal advice, the substance of which is privileged and will not be disclosed. I must advise you that the material sought will not be disclosed. Refusal of disclosure is consistent with applying the principles of the UK legislation, modified to reflect local circumstances.

From this it is plain that the government Pres Office does not act in the spirit of Freedom of Information.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

SATs Results: give us the detail and we'll judge for ourselves

There is some concern that the SATs results, published with such a flourish earlier this week, may not have been as good as they were presented.  (See here for an explanation.)
I did ask the Chief Public Relations Officer for the detailed figure, but apparently “the Director of Education first wishes to report the detailed figures to the Education and Employment Committee”.  That will be weeks away and I guess they hope we’ll have forgotten about it by then.
If the information is available to issue a press release then the information is available.  No ifs and buts.  It should be in the public domain.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Letter to The Editor in today's Independent

The following 'Letter to The Editor' will appear in today's Independent;

Esteemed Editor,

Various routine press releases were issued on Wednesday by SHG under the insulting title, "Open Government".  None of the content is about open government.  It's just called that, sort-of like calling my dog "King".

Is this SHG's idea of how to respond to the Freedom of Information campaign?

FOI isn't about what SHG feels like revealing to the people.  FOI creates a real system of open government based on everything being open to the public.  If SHG believes the public interest wouldn't be served by revealing the requested document, they must justify this using a set of agreed rules.  These are not the Middle Ages and we are not peasants or serfs to gratefully accept whatever bones of improvement are cast our way!

I wonder if, from now on, every time they reveal a minor road accident or that some dog barked three times, they will create a press release bragging about how open they are.  Then, if later some MP asks questions about open government in St. Helena, they'll be able to say they issued 73 such press releases in August, that Saints are impressed with this new openness ("See the happy natives!") and we of the FOI campaign are just a tiny fringe group of radical expats who are insensitive to the native culture and its fine tradition of arrogant and secret government.

It's like passing an ordinance that eliminates the Auditor General and Public Solicitor and calling it "An Ordinance to Eliminate Waste and Streamline the Budget".  They must think Saints are terribly stupid.

London Reader