THE government did not comply with the law when it attempted to withhold information on chief executive Charlie Parker’s employment contract, the information commissioner has said.
In a decision announced yesterday afternoon, the information commissioner, Dr Jay Fedorak, said that the Chief Minister’s Department had made an unauthorised attempt to stop information on Mr Parker’s employment contract from being revealed to the public in a freedom of information request.
He also said that the government had failed to meet the mandatory timeline of 65 working days required of it when responding to the information request.
‘True transparency requires timely access to information, and the timelines in the law are not optional, they are a requirement,’ he said.
Commenting on the criteria that are used to determine whether or not an individual’s right to privacy affects the public’s right to information, Dr Fedorak added: ‘Everyone has a right to privacy, including public officials. However, the public must be able to hold public authorities accountable for their decisions and activities. This sometimes requires the disclosure of information about the professional responsibilities and terms and conditions of employment for identifiable public officials.’
The government press office issued a statement following the Commissioner’s decision, acknowledging that it would now have to release Mr Parker’s contract, albeit in redacted form.
‘We acknowledge the information commissioner’s comments that the issue was “finely balanced” and that the States of Jersey “erred on the side of caution”,’ the statement read. ‘We will comply with the decision to release the redacted contract to the appellant within the required timeframe. We can confirm that the lengthy delay in responding to this freedom of information request was an anomaly. We are currently answering freedom of information requests in an average of 14 days.’
When asked what it was that had caused the delay in this particular instance, a government spokeswoman said that it had been ‘because it raised questions of privacy and public interest which required careful consideration’.
However, a freedom of information request submitted by the JEP earlier this year, which was unrelated to employment contracts, was delayed for three months before a response was received.
Similarly, a separate request submitted by this newspaper in May has yet to receive a response.
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