1: Do you agree agendas and reports of government committees, including ExCo and LegCo, should be published on the SHG website, in advance of meetings? And that minutes should also be published?
Answer: I mark ‘no’ as it’s not as black and white as it may seem. I am pro-transparency but providing some documentation in advance of a decision can create undue anxiety in the community. Officials tend to present their ideas to Committee’s seeking a mandate to continue work on a particular initiative and committees have turned some of them down flat. This specific scenario is what steers me away from having a full-blown FOI Act in St Helena. We would be creating undue concern in a small community about initiatives that may never make it off the starting blocks. Our population size and political set-up is a big factor when considering providing documents in advance.
I believe minutes of meetings should be published and all reports and legislation are now available on SHG website or from Clerk of Councils by request.
2. Do you agree ExCo meetings should be open to the public and media, except where this would, for instance, compromise commercial sensitivity or the confidentiality of individuals?
3: Other UK overseas territories have adopted Freedom of Information legislation, to improve governance and serve voters better. Do you think St Helena should now discuss the possibility of introducing a Freedom of Information Ordinance?
The FOI Campaigners might feel as though access to SHG documents is still very restrictive but SHG should be acknowledged for the significant strides taken over the past 3 years to improve openness and transparency and access to SHG documents. Introducing open sessions of EXCO; publishing SHG Management Accounts; Publishing tenders awarded; Ability to have open sessions of Committee meetings; Open session of Land Dev Control Board; documents now available on SHG website.