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Former Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Charles Ramson appointed Commissioner of Information – 22nd May 2013

shot0005The appointment of Senior Counsel Charles Ramson is expected to draw heavy criticism, not the least because he is a political appointee.

The appointment of the Commissioner of Information was provided for in the Access to Information Act, which was passed by the PPP/C Government in September 2011 amid a boycott by the Parliamentary Opposition.

Ramson would have his office at the Presidential Complex on New Garden Street and he would be answerable directly to the President.

The Act states that “The President shall appoint a Commissioner of Information who shall be a person of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media or administration and justice.”

The Access to Information Act places the release of information solely in the hands of the Commission of Information and the Government had sought to explain that the Commissioner would serve as a conduit through which information would be released.

Persons would only be able to request documents (including audio and video files) created after the law went into effect, September 27, 2011, at the hand of then President, Bharrat Jagdeo. Documents created before the Act would not be accessible, because such documents would not have been covered by the legislation, which sets out procedures for storing and retrieving of documents.

The Government had said that when the Act comes into play it would establish systems across the Government that would allow for consistent ways of filing and retaining documents and retrieval of such documents.

The Act states that public authorities have the onus to maintain all their records duly catalogued, classified and indexed in a manner and form, which facilitates the right of access to information.

The law does not apply to any Commission of Inquiry issued by the President, or information obtained or created in the course of an investigation, examination or audit by or under the authority of the Auditor General, unless the investigation or audit and all related proceedings are financially concluded.

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