Sunday, July 20, 2008

OAS committee concerned at Guyana’s lack of moves on access to information

OAS committee concerned at Guyana’s lack of moves on access to information
Stabroek News news item. Sunday 20 July 2008

Deep concern has been expressed by an Organization of American States (OAS) committee about Guyana’s non-implementation of some recommendations it made in 2006, including one for setting up mechanisms for access to information.

The report of the Committee of Experts of the Inter-American Convention against Corruption, which was adopted at the June 27, 2008 plenary session of the OAS held in Washington DC, was the second since the first report, which was adopted in 2006.

One of the recommendations made in the first report was for the establishment of legal provisions supporting access to information. The committee had suggested that Guyana consider the creation or adoption of systems to ensure that the public has access, when appropriate, to information on public government organizations and their financial and programme planning activities, specifically including oversight bodies responsible for matters covered in the report.

Freedom of Information legislation has long been advocated by many including the media and last month a Commonwealth Parliamen-tary Association (CPA)-sponsored Parliament and media workshop had urged that such legislation be enacted within a clear timeframe and efforts made to implement it fully.

The committee report in 2006 had urged the development and regulation of the processes through which requests are received in order to respond to them on a timely basis, for appeals in cases where requests are denied and establish sanctions in the event of failure to comply with the obligation to furnish public information.

A number of other recommendations were made including several that dealt with corruption and the reporting of such acts.

The committee has expressed concern that Guyana has not “advanced” in the recommendations put forth in the first review. It noted Guyana’s response, which stated that there had been no concrete steps to implement the measures suggested by the committee and that there was no available data on any difficulties that have been observed in the process of implementing the recommendations.

“The lack of concrete steps taken with respect to the implementation of the recommendations deeply concerns the committee and it has the even more serious consequence of making it very difficult to pursue the basic goal of facilitating, promoting and strengthening cooperation among the state parties, in accordance with the terms of the convention, the Docu-ment of Buenos Aires and the Rules of Procedure,” the report declared. The Document of Buenos Aires established the committee and one of its goals is “to follow up on the commitments made by the state parties to the convention and to study how they are being implemented”.

The report added, “thus, in the absence of relevant information on the difficulties experienced by the country undergoing review (Guyana), it is not possible to facilitate international cooperation for the state in overcoming these problems”.

The committee urged Guyana to take concrete steps in the implementation of the recommendations formulated in the first report and to report on its progress at the forthcoming meetings of the Committee in compliance with Article 31 of the Rules of Procedure.

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