Sunday, October 31, 2010
HALIFAX - More than 30 years after Nova Scotia became the first province in Canada to introduce freedom of information legislation, the woman who oversees the system says she ...
Posted by Greg Pemberton at 8:54 PM
"If some people in Wisconsin are getting this type of treatment, then everyone should be getting it," said Bill Lueders, president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information ...
Posted by Greg Pemberton at 8:54 PM
As a lawmaker in the 18th Guam Legislature, Gutierrez wrote the island's original "Sunshine Act," or freedom of information law, which gives the public the right to ...
T he National Freedom of Information Coalition elected Herald Managing Editor Don Lindley last week to its board of directors. The coalition is a nonpartisan ...
Freedom of information commissioners across Canada say they don't have the resources needed and a backlog of complaints is adding up. Dulcie McCallum, Nova Scotia's freedom of ...
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Former Prime Ministers costing us millions - News.com.au: "The figures were supplied by the Department of Finance using Freedom of Information laws and cover a 30-month period from December 1, 2007, to May 31, 2010."
Posted by Greg Pemberton at 1:31 PM
Sent to you by Greg via Google Reader:
Without budget information, the poor and marginalised find it harder to hold the powerful to account and donors can't properly assess the impact of aid
There are few commonly accepted truths in international development and that, perhaps surprisingly, may be a fairly good thing. Too much certainty about the drivers of growth and poverty reduction, on both left and right of the political spectrum, has led to more development disasters than successes. Far better an attitude of humility, a groping towards what works, based on principles of fairness and well-being.
But there is one area where there is consensus across the board, from donors to recipients, civil society to private sector (at least in public): that budget information (income and expenditure) should be put into the public domain. It is hard to think of anything that is more important for poverty reduction and development, in either short- or long-term, than this.
There are two groups of people who tend to be against this sort of transparency: bureaucrats and politicians. For a certain type of bureaucrat it is a hassle, when other priorities are so pressing, to devote time and money to sharing information with the public. Politicians realise what those calling for transparency also realise: information is power. If you know what is going on inside government, you can start to mobilise to support or oppose it.
Without information on budgets, the poor and marginalised find it harder to hold the powerful to account. The most famous example is in Ugandan education. Studies revealed that money assigned to schools from Kampala was not arriving at its destination. When spending decisions were published in the national media, villagers realised how little of the money allocated to them was arriving, and began to insist on change. In six years the amount of education spending (excluding salaries) reaching schools increased from 20% to 80%.
In a similar way, greater transparency allows people in donor countries to help ensure their governments' aid spending has maximum impact.
So two indices published recently should be welcomed by those who believe in transparency as a key plank of accountable governance (an index on corruption levels published on Tuesday is also worth a look).
The first on aid transparency was published yesterday by Publish What You Fund. Its Aid Transparency Assessment is the first of what the organisation claims will be many global surveys to push the case for "aid transparency rhetoric" to be "transformed into action."
The assessment compared the transparency of 30 major donors, ranking their commitment to aid transparency, the transparency of aid to recipient governments and transparency of aid to civil society organisations. The weight given to these three areas can be adjusted, but when weighted equally, the World Bank appears the most transparent donor, while Japan ranks as the least.
The Netherlands and the UK come second and third respectively, while France, the US and Italy languish in the bottom 10.
One of the assessment's major findings was the "lack of comparable and primary data available". Even if donors publish information on aid, each may do so using different data formats, sources and timeframes, making comparisons difficult.
The organisation would like to see all public and private aid donors, contractors and NGOs adopt four "aid transparency principles": that information on aid should be published proactively; information on aid should be comprehensive, timely, accessible and comparable; everyone can request and receive information on aid processes; and the right of access to information about aid should be promoted.
"Aid, used well, has enormous potential to contribute to positive changes. While some aid is helping address some of the most difficult problems in the most challenging places in the world, we also know that aid is not always delivering the maximum impact possible. Lack of transparency in the aid system is a critical challenge to improving the impact of aid, undermining our ability to assess what is contributing to change most," said the report.
"Most importantly, lack of information means aid activities might actively undermine one another, therefore limiting the contribution to the common goal of fighting poverty."
It is actually scandalous that aid transparency is not yet routine, but bureaucratic lethargy is hard to break when there is not serious political pressure. Perhaps if domestic budget cuts continue in donor countries, more pressure will be put on governments to open up about their foreign aid spending.
Publishing clear information on aid is one of the main recommendations made last week by the International Budget Partnership (IBP), in its latest Open Budget Index (OBI), which looked more generally at budget transparency. The index is based on a survey carried out in 94 countries, measuring access to national budget processes and opportunities to participate, and the strength of formal oversight institutions.
Overall the state of budget transparency is very poor. Despite progress being made, with almost all countries improving a little or a lot (there is always more information being published) 74 of the 94 countries do not provide comprehensive budget data to their citizens. The most improved countries are Egypt, Liberia and Mongolia. After the 2008 survey was published, Brazil sent an official to the IBP offices to ask for advice and now publishes a citizens' budget report. Peer pressure works.
The most striking finding is that countries can improve their ranking simply by publishing the documents they produce anyway. The work is done, the data is known, but it is not shared. Only 72 of the 94 countries publish the executive's budget proposal, with the others finding lame excuses for not doing so.
So who does well? A number of middle-income countries do better than richer countries, including South Africa, which tops the index, meaning it has the most open budget in the world. Latin America also does well (except for Bolivia and Honduras, which do terribly) and India and Sri Lanka are also near the top, beating Spain and Italy for budget transparency.
It won't be easy or quick to improve government accountability. Transparency is only one step towards accountability. Colombia comes a creditable 20th in the OBI, but no one would call it an accountable state. Civil society groups that try to challenge the status quo in Colombia are liable to disappear or be thrown in jail.
In Uganda, plenty of other policies were needed to ensure that poor people's views were heard and acted on. Nevertheless, sometimes issues come along which are so obviously a good thing for progress on development, that we should throw money and time at keeping up the pressure. International aid transparency is one of those issues.
See the country rankings below:
Things you can do from here:
Posted by Greg Pemberton at 12:54 PM
More Open but Not More Trusted? The Effect of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 on the United Kingdom Central Government - BEN WORTHY (PDF)
Image via WikipediaMore Open but Not More Trusted? The Effect of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 on the United Kingdom Central Government
This article examines the impact of Britain’s Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2000 on British central government. The article identifies six objectives for FOI in the United Kingdom and then examines to what extent FOI has met them, briefly comparing the United Kingdom with similar legislation in Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada. It concludes that FOI has achieved the core objectives of increasing transparency and accountability, though the latter only in particular circumstances, but not the four secondary
objectives: improved decision-making by government, improved public understanding, increased participation, and trust in government. This is not because the Act has “failed” but because the objectives were overly ambitious and FOI is shaped by the political environment in which it is placed.
Friday, October 29, 2010
Secret deals between City of Vancouver and Vanoc
VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) - A Freedom of Information request has unveiled free rent and other secret deals involving the City of Vancouver and VANOC
Posted by Greg Pemberton at 3:28 PM
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Nextgov.com is part of the National Journal Group Inc. and the Atlantic Media Company. It is a spin off of Government Executive.com and provides coverage and commentary on the management of information technology in the federal government.
Posted by Greg Pemberton at 12:12 PM
Posted by Greg Pemberton at 8:51 AM
Posted by Greg Pemberton at 8:50 AM
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Donation will support the foundation’s media innovation initiatives.
MIAMI (OCT. 26, 2010) – Knight Foundation announced today that it has received a $2 million grant from Google Inc. to support the foundation’s media innovation work.
“Journalism is fundamental to a functioning democracy, and we want to do our part to help fulfill the promise of journalism in the digital age,” said Nikesh Arora, President, Global Sales Operations and Business Development at Google. “There is no better partner to support innovation and experimentation in digital journalism than Knight Foundation.”“This is an enormously important vote of confidence by the industry leader. We welcome Google’s support,” said Alberto Ibargüen, President of Knight Foundation. He added,
“The free flow of information is essential to a democratic society."
Posted by Greg Pemberton at 12:53 PM
Peter A Clarke - http://www.peteraclarke.com.au/
The AM Law Daily has this piece on MarK Cuban's FOIA lawsuit with the SEC. The SEC is dragging its feet on processing the request on a timely basis; so Cuban has offered to pay. The SEC's Melinda Hardy is quoted as saying the SEC is now worried about wealthy individuals paying to have their requests processed first. The answer to Ms. Hardy's worries is simple -- just process everything in a timely basis (and stop trying to redact everything) and you won't have a processing disparity between rich and poor.
Posted by Greg Pemberton at 12:36 PM
See all stories on this topic »
Posted by Greg Pemberton at 12:35 PM
Vivek Wadhwa talks government data and the (financial) opportunities ripe for the picking:
What is happening with the opening up of government data is nothing less than a silent revolution. There are literally thousands of new opportunities to improve government and to improve society—and to make a fortune while doing it. Unlike the Web 2.0 space, which is overcrowded, Gov 2.0 is uncharted territory: a new frontier to explore, grow things on, and settle on. It's fresh soil for unlikely seedling ideas that, if they take root, could lead to very successful ventures. So I encourage entrepreneurs to stake their claims as soon as they can.
Wait a minute. Hold up. You can do more with government data than awkward dashboards? Bring it.
Posted by Greg Pemberton at 9:29 AM
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Posted by Greg Pemberton at 8:38 PM
Outcry as senior council staff get expensive phones
The Surrey Herald
... out and how much it had cost the council, it refused to answer and asked us to put in a Freedom of Information Request, which costs taxpayers money.
Posted by Greg Pemberton at 12:36 PM
Game & Fish Commission pull FOI proposal amid backlash - FOX16.com ...: "After heavy criticism from the Governor and Attorney General, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission changed course Monday. Commissioners decided not to pursue its own policy restricting information available to the public, admitting it ...
FOX16 Local News - http://www.fox16.com/news/local/"
Posted by Greg Pemberton at 9:02 AM
Monday, October 25, 2010
The University of Manitoba is going to publish the new, peer-reviewed Canadian Journal of Human Rights. Launch is scheduled for the spring of 2011.
From the "about" page:
[The CJHR is] a peer-reviewed interdisciplinary journal of law and policy with a national and international scope… [T]he CJHR seeks to attract human rights research from around the world. From queer rights in Africa and Aboriginal rights in Australia to the European Court of Human Rights and Human Rights tribunals in Canada, we will explore varied areas of research from diverse perspectives.
The nascent journal is seeking submissions and has set out their requirements. They don't say what sort of copyright arrangement they expect; and they don't address whether the journal will be freely available online or not. I'd hope that in this day and age, a brand new journal would be open access or would clearly enable its authors to lodge their articles in open access repositories.
It looks as if the CJHR site is planning to blog human rights news on a weekly basis. The feed for this blog is at http://cjhr.ca/?feed=rss2, though the URL is not listed on the site.
Posted by Greg Pemberton at 8:50 PM
BC Ferries sends out its first Freedom of Information responses in 7+ years - The Paper Trail with Chad Skelton
Posted by Greg Pemberton at 8:42 PM
Image via Wikipedia
Posted by Greg Pemberton at 10:04 AM
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Posted by Greg Pemberton at 9:05 AM
Friday, October 22, 2010
Posted by Greg Pemberton at 8:55 PM
Just a note to thank Simon Fodden of Slaw for his post on the Coalition. We have been around for a while on the web but maybe a little too far under the radar. Our site is relatively static, it is the CV or bio for the Coalition with connections for anyone interested in joining. The news blog is basically our water cooler and always has something new on it. There is so much FOI news content generated every day, it would be a full time job to keep up with it all but we try to key an eye on the best of what is going on.
FYI, our site is up and running fine. We had a little hiccup with a behind the scenes URL switch and Simon must have chosen the brief downtime window to try and visit. It was unfortunate that the timing came just after the Right to Know Forum hosted by the Coalition at the end of September. I'm sure more than a few people ran into the same issue as Simon after getting interested in us.
Posted by Greg Pemberton at 12:44 PM
Liberals promise open government in cyber-space
The Canadian Press
No public interest override in Secrecy Bill - Cwele
SECOND SUBMISSION BY THE MINISTER OF STATE
SECURITY, DR SC CWELE (MP) TO THE ADHOC
COMMITTEE ON PROTECTION OF INFORMATION
22 OCTOBER 2010
Honourable Chairperson of the Ad-Hoc Committee;
Honourable Members of the Committee;
Fellow South Africans;
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Today, we present a second submission of our proposals in response to the Public Hearings and public debate on the Protection of Information Bill, 2010 [B6-2010]. In this installment, we would like to focus our input on the guiding principles that inform the approach we have adopted in relation to the Protection of Information Bill and the international best practice that underwrite it. Secondly, we would like to reiterate what information is targeted for protection by the Bill, which would be followed by some case studies of comparable lessons from some of selected democratic dispensations and round it up with some concluding remarks.
FULL ARTICLE: http://www.politicsweb.co.za/politicsweb/view/politicsweb/en/page71656?oid=206547&sn=Detail&pid=71616
Posted by Greg Pemberton at 9:15 AM
Thursday, October 21, 2010
The Open Data Debate Arrives in Ottawa
via eaves.ca by David Eaves on 10/21/10
The Liberals are promising to create an open data portal - opendata.gc.ca - much like President Obama has done in the United States and both Gordon Brown and David Cameron have done in the United Kingdom.
It's a savvy move.
In May 2010 when it launched a public consultation on the Digital Economy, the government invited the public to submit proposals and vote on them. Two of the top three most voted ideas involved asking the government to open up access to government collected data. Three months after the submissions have closed it appears the opposition has decided to act on Canadians wishes and release a 21st century open government strategy that reflects these popular demands.
Today, at 1pm EST, I've discovered the Liberals will announce that, if elected, they will adopt a government-wide directive in which "the default position for all departments and agencies will be for the release of information to the public, both proactively and responsively, after privacy and other legal requirements are met."
There is much that both ordinary citizens and advocates of greater government transparency will like in the proposal. Not only have the Liberals mirrored the most aggressive parts of President Obama's transparency initiatives they are also promising some specific and aggressive policies of their own. In addition to promising to launching opendata.gc.ca to share government data the document proposes the creation of accesstoinformation.gc.ca where citizens could search past and current access to information requests as well as see response times. A third website, entitled accountablespending.gc.ca is also proposed. It would allow government grants, contributions and contracts to be searched.
FULL ARTICLE: http://eaves.ca/2010/10/21/the-open-data-debate-arrives-in-ottawa/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+Eavesca+(eaves.ca)
Posted by Greg Pemberton at 11:53 AM
John Keane: The Life and Death of Democracy: "
John Keane: The Life and Death of Democracy
At the Byron Bay Writers Festival, in conversation with Griffith Review Editor Julianne Schultz, Professor John Keane talks us through the rise and fall of democracies and empires, from a primarily historical perspective.
From the very first Platonic democracy of Ancient Greece, Keane argues, through the ages of the civil rights movement, apartheid, the women's vote, through to the world's first black president, the institution of Democracy has aided civilization in avoiding hubris. It has also helped to humble power and, as Churchill liked to say, democracy is still 'the best weapon we have against stupidity.'
Keane argues that democracy is not only practiced in the parliament but, since 1945, has become increasingly involved at the grass roots, whereby the citizen is more inclined to have her say via diverse power-scrutinizing, problem-solving groups, such as online monitoring agencies.
The flipside of all this monitoring, he argues, is that politicians are more fearful of their public.
Date: Sat, 07 Aug 2010 00:00:00 -0700
Location: Byron Bay, NSW, Byron Bay Writers Festival, Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Program and discussion: http://fora.tv/2010/08/07/John_Keane_The_Life_and_Death_of_Democracy"
Posted by Greg Pemberton at 9:43 AM
Chatham man wants money back in FOI case:
A Chatham man who won a recent Freedom of Information Act complaint against Pittsylvania County has appealed the case to circuit court in hopes of getting back the $304.81 he was charged for the information he requested.
"Not only do I feel the fees were unreasonable, but this may cause people to be hesitant to file a FOI," said George Stanhope.
FULL ARTICLE: http://www.wpcva.com/articles/2010/10/21/chatham/news/news54.txt
Posted by Greg Pemberton at 9:38 AM
By RAY SPITERI , REVIEW STAFF WRITER
The Ontario government proposed legislation Wednesday that, if passed, would subject hospitals to freedom-of-information requests, as of Jan. 1, 2012.
Niagara's hospitals could soon be open to more public scrutiny.
Hospitals are one of the few public agencies exempt from such requests.
Niagara Falls MPP Kim Craitor, a longtime proponent of increasing transparency to public bodies, said the legislation is "exactly in line" with what he believes.
"It's the right thing to do for the public," he said. "I hope we get to the point when my transparency bill is redundant because the government has done everything I had hoped."
FULL ARTICLE: http://www.niagarafallsreview.ca/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=2809543
Posted by Greg Pemberton at 9:37 AM
Mac president George expensed $200,000 in 32 months
Posted by Greg Pemberton at 9:37 AM
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
OIPC ONTARIO | Opening the Door - bringing hospitals under FOI is a major step for openness and transparency, says Commissioner Ann Cavoukian
Opening the Door - bringing hospitals under FOI is a major step for openness and transparency, says Commissioner Ann Cavoukian
Posted by Greg Pemberton at 7:00 PM
Mayor and deputy mayor candidates address county issues
As the dispute surrounding the Site 41 landfill reached a critical stage during the summer of 2009, a number of questions emerged about the manner in which decisions were being made -and by whom -at the County of Simcoe.
Some of the 32 women and men entrusted to govern the half billion dollar corporation were, according to one councillor: "left in the dark."
While their actions impact the lives and pocketbooks of everyone in Simcoe County, county councillors are not directly accountable to county residents. They hold office solely because they are elected as mayors and deputy mayors in their own municipality.
(In a democratic society that, in and of itself, is worthy of a whole set of questions.)
George Cornell: FOI legislation is there to protect the rights of the public to have access to information under the control of institutions, while at the same time protecting the privacy of individuals. There are very specific rules under which the Act is governed. As a member of County Council, I would work to ensure that County Council and staff are fully compliant with the FOI requirements and work to improve the public's engagement in County matters through public meetings and advisory committees.
FULL ARTICLE: http://www.midlandfreepress.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=2807591
Posted by Greg Pemberton at 11:51 AM
Americans give low marks to Obama transparency effort at agencies: "But White House itself gets higher score than several U.S. industries."
Posted by Greg Pemberton at 11:51 AM
End secret salaries - Winnipeg Free Press
The chief and band councillors of Manitoba's O-Chi-Chak-Ko-Sipi First Nation near St. Rose du Lac govern only slightly more than 500 people. Although the band runs a $500,000 deficit (2008-09) and carries a $1.2-million debt, it paid its chief and three band councillors between $106,000 and $144,000 each in 2008-2009. That is about as much as Canadian premiers get to run whole provinces, but it is not unusual on First Nations. Citing information obtained under an access to information request, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation reports that at least 30 First Nation chiefs across the country were paid more than Canadian provincial premiers.
FULL ARTICLE: http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/editorials/end-secret-salaries-105328098.html
Posted by Greg Pemberton at 9:53 AM
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
City councillor and mayoral candidate James Calnan says the fact he had to submit a freedom of information request to find out the city’s outside legal costs shows that something is fundamentally flawed at city hall.
Calnan paid $278 out of his own pocket to submit a formal request under the Municipal Freedom of Information Act in order to learn that the city has spent more than $2.5 million on external legal counsel since 2003.
“It’s appalling to think that the only way to get this number is through freedom of information,” Calnan said. “People shouldn’t have to fight to know what is going on at city council, whether they are a councillor or not.”
FULL ARTICLE: http://www.brantnews.com/news.cfm?page=news§ion=read&articleId=9001
Posted by Greg Pemberton at 5:28 PM
State salaries soar for Virginia academics, coaches - WTOP Radio: "RICHMOND, Va. - Some Virginia employees are making the big bucks. Records obtained by the Richmond Times-Dispatch show outgoing University of Virginia provost Dr. Arthur Garson Jr. earns the highest 2010 salary for a state employee at more than $700,000 ..."
Posted by Greg Pemberton at 11:46 AM
Deputy calls for action on freedom of information law - BBC: "A Jersey politician hopes a law governing access to official information will come into force soon. Deputy Roy le Herrisier has stepped in after a committee said it could not ..."
Posted by Greg Pemberton at 11:45 AM
Monday, October 18, 2010
The Sentinel filed a Freedom of Information Act request to the Road Commission, requesting the data. According to FOIA law, the information should be turned over within five ...
Posted by Greg Pemberton at 8:26 AM
FULL ARTICLE: http://verafiles.org/main/focus/foi-law-to-curb-corruption-canadian-diplomat/
Posted by Greg Pemberton at 8:25 AM
RICHMOND - University of Virginia provost Arthur Garson Jr. is the highest-paid employee on the state's payroll. The Richmond Times-Dispatch used Virginia's Freedom ...
Posted by Greg Pemberton at 8:25 AM
He then presented a copy of Liberia's Freedom of Information Act, which was recently signed into law by President Sirleaf, to the Chairperson of the African Editor's Forum (TAEF ...
Posted by Greg Pemberton at 8:24 AM
"Bob Woodward perfectly personifies the spirit and mission of the Connecticut Freedom of Information Act," says Daniel Klau, a Hartford attorney and president of the ...
Posted by Greg Pemberton at 8:24 AM
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Kim de Bourbon, executive director of the Pennsylvania Freedom of Information Coalition, said people have already paid for the creation of those records through their ...
Posted by Greg Pemberton at 8:09 AM
Saturday, October 16, 2010
RCMP ends probe into destroyed government emails
Posted by Greg Pemberton at 7:24 PM