Freedom Of Information

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The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Chap. 22:02 gives every person the right to obtain access to official documents from public authorities. This is not an absolute right and the FOIA identifies documents a person is not entitled to obtain in accordance with Section 12 of that Act.

Section 12 of the Act lists these documents to include:

Documents with information that is open to public access

A document which is available for purchase by the public

A document that is available for inspection that is in a registry maintained by the Registrar General or other public authority, and

A document which is a duplicate of a document of a public authority

The FOIA also provides for instances where a public authority can rely on stated exemptions to refuse access to requested documents. Where access is refused, the Ombudsman has the power to review that refusal provided that the applicant makes a complaint, in writing, within twenty-one (21) days of receiving the notice of refusal.

Documents that may be exempted from disclosure include inter alia:

Cabinet documents

Law enforcement documents

Documents relating to trade secrets

Documents affecting personal privacy

When a request is made pursuant to the FOIA, Section 15 places a statutory obligation upon public authorities to take all reasonable steps to enable an applicant to be notified of the approval or refusal of his/her request as soon as practicable but in any case, not later than thirty (30) days after the day on which the request was duly made.

Public statements of the Office of the Ombudsman in compliance with sections 7, 8 and 9 of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) 1999

In accordance with Sections 7, 8 and 9 of the Freedom of Information Act, Chap. 22:02 (‘FOIA’) the Office of the Ombudsman being a Public Authority is required by law to publish statements which list the documents and information generally available to the public.

The FOIA gives members of the public:

A legal right for each person to access information held by the Office;

A legal right for each person to have official information relating to himself /herself amended where it is incomplete, incorrect or misleading;

A legal right to obtain reasons for adverse decisions made regarding an applicant’s request for information under the FOIA;

A legal right to complain to the Ombudsman and to apply to the High Court for Judicial Review to challenge adverse decisions made under the FOIA.

The following FOIA statements are published with the approval of the Ombudsman of Trinidad and Tobago.