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Statement from the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner on the Draft Freedom of Information Bill 2015
Submitted by BIS   
Friday, 22 May 2015 09:56

The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner via the press is in possession of the recently released Freedom of Information Bill 2015.

Firstly, I shall like to congratulate the Government and people of The Bahamas for moving one step closer to removing the unnecessary secrecy surrounding government information and allowing ordinary citizens to participate and contribute to all facets of national development.

While, it is my considered view, that the call for openness in governance ought to be properly championed and led by civil society, this Data Protection Commissioner is on record as supporting the implementation of a Freedom of Information Act, as it is an important tool in a healthy and transparent democracy.  Our country stands to benefit.

As we continue to make strides, I make the following observations, for the information and/or necessary action of those concerned, as I would be remiss in my capacity as Data Protection Commissioner not to comment.

THE REGIME ISSUE

It is noted that the new draft Freedom of Information Bill, 2015, appears to separate the Office of the Data Commissioner from that of the Information Commissioner.

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VAT Department instructions on the message tab
Submitted by Sasha Lightbourne   
Thursday, 21 May 2015 08:22

NASSAU, Bahamas -- The Value Added Tax (VAT) Department of the Ministry of Finance urges taxpayers to make use of the message tab in the Online Tax Administration System (OTAS) to effectively manage their accounts and communicate with the VAT Department.

For all electronic correspondence regarding VAT account enquiries, taxpayers are encouraged to use their online account instead of the following email addresses - This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Using the “SEND MESSAGE” tab in the OTAS system ensures confidentiality, privacy and a timely response to all VAT questions and concerns. Please note that this method will create a formal case ”ENQxxxx”, that can be tracked through to resolution and also provide a paper trail for quality assurance.

For more information on using the “SEND MESSAGE” tab and managing your user’s account please contact Taxpayer Services at (242)-225-7280.

 
Bahamas Press Club statement on Freedom of Information Bill
Submitted by the Bahamas Press Club   
Thursday, 21 May 2015 06:56

NASSAU, Bahamas -- The Bahamas Press Club 2014 is thankful to the government that after a lengthy delay the Freedom of Information bill is likely to see the light of day and could be brought into force, notwithstanding that a similar bill was passed in 2012 but never enacted.

The release of this draft bill proves our long held contention that there is no reason an act could not be produced and passed before 2016 because all that is needed is the focused attention of a committed government.

On the face of it the new draft bill will seem to deepen the democracy in affording the people to freely access information from various government agencies. On the backside, however, it will appear that so much information will be exempt and not available for the public, the status quo will remain and freedom of information for the Bahamian people will still not exist.

We are hopeful that the appointment of an Information Commissioner with the attendant resources to make the position effective, minus the usual political baggage will be the order of the day.

The Press Club is also delighted to see the unlimited power of the minister corrected as that single provision made a mockery of the entire process.

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STB congratulates government on Freedom of Information move, urges independent non-political commissioner appointment
Submitted by DP&A   
Thursday, 21 May 2015 06:53

Vanessa Haley-Benjamin, CEO of the fast-growing environmental movement Save The Bays, congratulates the Christie government following release of draft Freedom of Information Act, but urges attention to public input and appointment of an independent commissioner to assure an end to secret deals that can harm the environment. NASSAU, Bahamas -- Calling it “a step in the right direction,” Save The Bays CEO Vanessa Haley-Benjamin today congratulated the government on the release of the draft Freedom of Information Act, but said to be effective the final legislation must provide for an independent commissioner and contain “more teeth than loopholes.”

“Releasing the long-awaited Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) draft this week was a step in the right direction and Save The Bays welcomes the news and congratulates the government,” said Benjamin. “But a step is just that. One step in a long journey. The path to true freedom of information which is the public’s right to know and the bedrock of any democracy means the act must have more teeth than loopholes.”

The first condition of real freedom of information is to remove it from the political arena, she said.

“The appointment of an independent commissioner is absolutely essential if freedom of information is to be effective,” said Benjamin. “That is the first requirement and the most basic tenet – take politics out of it. We will know that the government is serious about the public’s right to know if those charged with answering requests for information are non-political and their jobs are not tied to a given government office where their jobs can be threatened or their answers influenced.”

Independent administration will demonstrate that those who are introducing freedom of information legislation are not just paying lip service to the increasing calls for the right to know, but really mean it, she said.

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Caribbean fisheries ministers ink regional spiny lobster declaration
Submitted by CRFM   
Tuesday, 19 May 2015 07:32

(l to r):  Hon. Luther Buchanan of Jamaica, Hon. Roland Bhola of Grenada, Hon. Johnson Drigo of Dominica and CRFM Executive Director Milton Haughton.ST. GEORGE’S, Grenada -- In a milestone development for the region, Fisheries Ministers recently endorsed a new Declaration on Spiny Lobster—a highly traded marine species in the Caribbean—at the 9th Meeting of the Ministerial Council of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM), which concluded on Friday, 15 May 2015 in Grenada.

The declaration, which is a non-binding roadmap for closer regional collaboration, was signed by the newly installed chairman of the CRFM Ministerial Council – Honourable Roland Bhola, Grenada’s Minister of Agriculture, Lands, Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, who assumed the rotating chairmanship of the Council on the occasion of the meeting from Honourable Johnson Drigo, Dominica’s Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

The declaration states that its objective “...is to ensure the long-term sustainable use of the spiny lobster (Panulirus argus) resources through effective implementation of conservation and management measures for the stocks and their habitats based on the best scientific evidence available.”

It calls on the 17 CRFM Member States to develop or adapt existing national strategies, plans, programmes or regulations to achieve the objective of the Spiny Lobster Declaration.

The declaration underscores the need for regional management initiatives to take into account the interests of small-scale and subsistence fishers and promote their participation in the decision-making processes that affect their livelihoods.

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