The government intends to borrow $30 million from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to strengthen its digital infrastructure and support the rollout of the Freedom of Information Act.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest tabled a resolution in the House Wednesday night outlining the details.
He said the loan will assist in “providing support for the implementation of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) which includes: developing and implementing a master plan for the rollout of FOIA; providing technical support for the set-up and operation of the office of the information commissioner; conducting training to information managers to enhance transparency in public sector entities; and enhancing inter-institutional coordination to effectively implement FOIA provisions”.
The loan is also expected to help in “designing and implementing a government cloud computing service that will allow government agencies to access a shared e-government infrastructure and applications”.
The government intends to update the citizen portal and place government procedures online and implement key tools for the provision of government digital services including “digital identity, digital signature, online payment, business process manager and document management”.
The loan will also see the “digitizing of government’s procedures related to property registration; computerizing government’s procedures related to setting up a business; designing and implementing an information management platform to enhance the transparency of budget information and public expenditures”.
Turnquest said the resolution will be debated at the earliest opportunity.
A revamped version of the FOIA was passed under the Christie administration in February 2017.
The objects of the act are to reinforce and give further effect to certain fundamental principles underlying the system of constitutional democracy, namely government accountability, transparency and public participation in national decision-making.
The act seeks to do this by granting the public a general right of access to records held by a public authority, subject to exemptions which balance that right against the public interest in exempting from disclosure governmental or commercial information.
When the act is fully in force, every Bahamian citizen, permanent resident and registered company in The Bahamas shall have a right to obtain access to a record other than an exempt record.
The law provides for the governor general, upon the recommendation of the prime minister after consultation with the leader of the opposition, to appoint an information commissioner.
The commissioner shall be appointed for a period of five years and may get an extension for another five years.
The whistleblower provision of the Freedom of Information Act 2017 came into force on March 1.