Freedom of Information:
Implementing to Succeed
In The Long Term
Office of the Ombudsmen
Jakarta - 19 November 2008
“The execution of Laws
is more important than
the making of them”
Thomas Jefferson, May 1789
What are you trying to
achieve by introducing a
Freedom of Information
• Better services for the public
• Reduction in wasted spending and
• Higher quality public administration
• Better record keeping and
• Increased public and international
confidence in government
Saving Money - BBC
The BBC has saved nearly £5,000 a day by cutting
back on taxi perks for daytime newsreaders, figures
released under the FOI Act show. Presenters including
Natasha Kaplinsky and Sophie Raworth, who are said
to earn more than £200,000 a year, must now pay for
their own transport to and from work. In the 2006/07
financial year, the [BBC] spent £17.7m on taxis and
private hire cars, compared with £19.8m the previous
11.05.07 The Daily Star
Benefits - Uganda
Education funding - graft and corruption
• Only 20 per cent of funds sent out from central government
were reaching schools, and the median school was receiving
• Most of the money being captured by corrupt officials in the
local agencies managing the funds.
• Parents knew little about this problem, which had continued
• Ugandan government launched a new strategy to combat
• Published data on monthly transfers of grants to each school
district in national newspapers and their local-language
editions. Primary schools and district offices were also
required to post notices of actual receipts of funds for
everyone to see.
• Significantly improved performance of the grant program.
Median school now received 82 percent of its entitlement.
Proportion of funds lost to corruption fell from 80 percent to
just 20 percent.
Record keeping: Ireland
• “no evidence that less detailed
information…being recorded or…certain
• “minutes of management advisory meetings …
recorded in greater detail than previously.”
• “In one…case minutes were now being
recorded where before…the FOI Act no formal
minutes were kept.”
Information Commissioner of Ireland, July 2001
“One issue raised recurrently by public bodies is that the
processing of FOI requests is a significant resource burden...While
these concerns are understandable, they illustrate a key point: the
tendency of many public bodies to regard FOI as an exclusively
operational matter...To focus on this aspect alone is to lose sight
of...one of the principal benefits of FOI... to uphold the citizen’s
faith in the administrative and democratic process. With this in
mind, the public service should strive towards providing as much
information as possible outside of the FOI Act...release outside of
the Act...can assist the public body through avoiding the formal
time and resource consuming process entailed.”
Information Commissioner of Ireland, June 2002
New Zealand Law Commission
“Since 1982 there has been a
fundamental change in attitudes...
Ministers and officials have learned to
live with much greater openness. The
assumption that policy advice will
eventually be released under the Act
has in our view improved the quality
and transparency of that advice.”
– New Zealand Law Commission, 1997
New Zealand - Purposes
a) To increase progressively the availability of official information
to the people of New Zealand in order-
(i) To enable their more effective participation in the
making and administration of laws and policies;
(ii) To promote the accountability of Ministers of the
Crown and officials, and thereby to enhance
respect for the law and to promote the good
government of New Zealand
b) To provide for proper access by each person to official information
relating to that person
c) To protect official information to the extent consistent with the public
interest and the preservation of personal privacy.
Official Information Act, 1982, s.4
Purposes - Finland
Finland to promote openness and good practice in
1999 information management
to provide individuals and corporations with
an opportunity to monitor the exercise of
public authority and use of public resources
to freely form an opinion
to influence the exercise of public authority
to protect their rights and interests.
Indonesia FOI Act - Objectives
This law is aimed at the following:
a. To secure the right of the citizens to know the plan to make public
policies, public policy programs, and the process to make public
decisions, as well as the reason of making a public decision.
b. To encourage the participation of the society in the process of
making a public policy;
c. To increase the active role of the people in making public policies
and to manage the Public Agencies properly;
d. To materialize good governance, ie. transparent, effective and
efficient, accountable and responsible.
e. To know the rationale of a public policy that affects the life of the
f. To develop sciences and to sharpen the mind of the nation;
g. To enhance the information management and service at Public
Agency circles, so as to produce good quality information
• How are you going to reach your
• What strategies and tools do you
need to succeed?
Smooth and effective implementation
– Senior leadership in each agency
– Well trained Information Managers
– All staff aware of their FOI responsibilities
– Clear procedures and guidelines
– Consistency of response across public authorities
– Improved records management
Transparency in implementation
– Participation by the public and civil society
– Greater openness and publication of information
Development of :
1. Global Implementation Plan with time lines and
milestones for Government at large; and
2. Model Action Plan to assist individual authorities
with implementation, also with time lines based on
the Implementation Plan.
1. FOI Implementation Steering Committee (FOISC),
consisting of a senior member from each Ministry
and Portfolio – this high level of Committee
Members, approved by Cabinet facilitates
2. Implementation Plan with Government-wide target
dates and Project Manager to ensure the time lines
3. Baseline Assessments – sent to all Authorities for
4. Model Action Plan - to assist individual authorities
with implementation and time lines based.
5. Implementation Planning Committee created to
ensure deadlines within the Implementation Plan
6. Briefings held for all Ministers, Chief Officers,
Senior Members of Government – provides a basic
understanding and familiarization of FOI.
7. Annual ‘Sunshine Week’ – to educate the public as
to their rights under the FOI Law.
8. Information Mangers Network – to facilitate
communication between the FOI Unit and IM’s and
between all IM’s.
Tools for locating information
held by government
Australian DPMC file list
Australian DPMC file list
NZ - Directory of Official Information
UK - Information Asset Register
The right to request information
is critical, but it can be slow
More than 25% of OIA complaints
relate to delays or extensions
Average number of days to
complete an OIA investigation
Mexican Federal FOI Law
Web portal for access to information
required to be published
Expenses claims - Panama
Department for Education and
Skills - Disclosure Log
DIA - Gambling Act Review
Appropriate Use of IT
• Records and information management within the
• Systems to enable tracking of requests within
each public authority.
• Collating and preparing reports.
• On-line Affirmative and Proactive Publication.
• These are essential to ensure and assess
compliance with FOI Legislation.
“Without accurate, complete and timely
records AND the means of finding and
releasing information, an access regime is
bound to fail”
Records are at the heart of any information regime.
Staff need to comply with the law
• This is one of the key fundamentals in all FOI
• There needs to be a process for ensuring the
participation of the public in this critical development.
• Ensure the public’s views are obtained so a system
that meets their needs is designed.
• Effective implementation is a joint partnership between
the holders of information (Government) and
applicants (the public).
• Whose role? Information Commission, Government, Civil
• Make the Implementation Plan available at all public libraries and
on a central FOI website inviting comment from the public.
• Publish the minutes of all FOI Committee meetings on the FOI
• Publish a Consultation Paper on the proposed FOI Regulations
and invite comments from the public for a 1 month period.
• Grant interviews to the media when requested.
• Organise an Annual Sunshine Week – informative public
education events, giveaways, etc.
Lessons to be learnt
• Need to ensure networking of Information Managers and ensure
they act as “Change Agents” within each
• Training must be comprehensive and sustained.
• Need the support from the Heads of agencies and other key
individuals in agency, e.g. legal officers.
• Must involve the public in implementation activities.
• Must address inconsistent Legislation and the need for effective
• Need enhanced guidance resources and ensuring sharing of
experiences from other jurisdictions.
• IT systems need to be utilized appropriately including addressing
• Must be creative in the dissemination of information to the public
– “information delivery”.
• Increase awareness of Act and • Leadership &
need for cultural change
• Audit and adapt your record
keeping • Resources
• Train your staff - and keep training
• Build networks to support officials
• Keep in touch with stakeholders
• Monitoring and review - learning
from requests to improve your
proactive publication and
Benefits to expect
Better record keeping and better internal
Fewer appeals = saving money
Better decision making
More informed press
Better public understanding of your work
The Act will “help transform the culture of Government from
one of secrecy to one of openness….By doing so, public
confidence in the processes of government should be raised,
and the quality of decision making by the Government
Home Secretary, Jack Straw, 2nd reading FOI Bill, 7/12/99
“the Act has had a significant impact on the
quality of decision making. It has improved the
public sector’s professionalism and the capacity
of its officers to develop, analyse, and articulate
policy that stands up to scrutiny.”
John Cain, former Premier of Victoria
More informed press
“Currently, all Authority papers are circulated to the
Press... The conscientious journalist...will have worked
through the papers in search usable items in a process
which inevitably imparts to him a great deal of knowledge
which he could not come by in any other way...
[this] has led, over the years, to an increasingly well-
informed press and a perceptible improvement in its
understanding and therefore its treatment of the
Authority...any stemming of this flow of knowledge can
only result in an ill-informed, suspicious and therefore
critical news coverage of all aspects of the Authority’s
Welsh Water Authority, 1984
Driving examiners now explain test results
to candidates. As result, letters of enquiry
following tests to the Driving Standards
Agency have fallen by 65%, reducing costs
Citizens Charter, 1st report, 1992
• Implement as a process of permanent change, not
just a project for the next 2 or 3 years. Focus on
building systems and support for the long term.
• Will your operation of the Act generate a return on
• Prioritise operation for new records, not old.
• Senior ownership of implementation and when in
• Support junior staff who disclose embarrassing
information correctly under the law.
• Pulling teeth or running the tap?
Don’t make it a painful process!
Further advice and reading