The introduction of the Freedom of Information Act has been variously described as heralding a “radical departure”; "the end of the culture of public service secrecy" and the move into a brave new world of public service openness, transparency and disclosure. The Act has been in operation for over eight years and, over this period, has become a very important tool available to the citizen to gain access to a wide range of information.
However as with the introduction of any new initiatives that propose to radically shift the culture of an organisation, the implementation of the FOIA is faced with the significant challenge of breaking the culture of secrecy entrenched, primarily in the Central Public Service, from colonial traditions, while at the same time protecting information of a sensitive nature.
Despite the many challenges faced over the years, members of the public have been utilizing the Act effectively to obtain information held by Public Authorities, including seeking the redress of both the Ombudsman and the Courts. The effective utilization and enforcement of the FOIA, has the potential to strengthen citizens’ trust in our democratic processes, while demonstrating government’s commitment to transparency and accountability.