Access to information (ATI) or Freedom of Information (FIO) legislation, as it is called in some jurisdictions, has existed since 1776 and is in force in many countries such as the United States, Australia, Canada and most of Europe and Trinidad and Tobago and Belize.
The Access to Information Act, was passed in Jamaica June 2002, gives you a general right of access to official government information which would otherwise be inaccessible.
The Act aims to reinforce fundamental democratic principles vital to:
- improved, more transparent government;
- greater accountability of government to its people;
- increased public influence on and participation in national decision making; and knowledge of the functions of government.
What can I request under the Access to Information Act?
You have the right to request any information held by government bodies. The Act allows access to recorded information, such as emails, meeting minutes, research or reports, held by government bodies in Jamaica.
Which government bodies are covered by the Access to Information Act?
- Government Ministries
- Agencies and Departments
- Statutory Bodies
- Parish Councils
- wholly-owned Government companies or those in which the Government has more than 50% shares
- publicly-funded educational institutions
Who can request information?
Under the Act, any individual, anywhere in the world, is able to make a request to a government body for information.
How quickly will I receive a response?
The NHF will inform you within thirty (30) days of receipt of the Application whether or not the information will be disclosed and grant access or inform you of your rights of appeal, as the case may be.
How will I receive the information?
You will receive the information as you have requested it to be prepared. You may be allowed to view, listen to, inspect or be given a copy of the document. However, access may be given in a form other than that which you have requested if there is a need to preserve the document or its physical state makes the form of access requested inappropriate.
Will I be able to get any information I want?
No. There are documents, which are exempt from disclosure under the Act. These are documents which, it is believed, should not be disclosed in order to protect essential public interests or the private/business affairs of others. These include documents pertaining to:
Security, Defense, International Relations, The Cabinet, Law Enforcement ,Legal Privilege, The National Economy,Government's deliberative processes
Business affairs of others (trade secrets, etc.), Heritage sites, Personal privacy
What kinds of appeal do I have?
The grounds on which you have the right to appeal include:
- Refusal of grant of access
- The grant of access to only some of the documents requested
- Deferral of the grant of access
- Refusal to amend or annotate a personal record
- The charging of, or amount of, a fee
What are the offences or penalties under the Act?
Under the Act, a Government employee commits an offence if:
He/she alters or defaces, blocks or erases, destroys or conceals an official document to which the public has right of access, with the intention of preventing its disclosure.
A fine of a maximum of five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000.00) or six (6) months imprisonment or both can be imposed on the employee if such an offence is committed.
WRITE, E-MAIL OR FAX YOUR REQUEST (INCLUDING YOUR CONTACT INFORMATION) TO:
Miss Shermaine Robotham
Public Information Manager (Acting)
National Health Fund
6th Floor, The Towers
25 Dominica Drive, Kingston 5
Tel: 906-1106 Fax: 906-1105
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