Home The Big Stories PM suggests search is on for new Information Commissioner

PM suggests search is on for new Information Commissioner

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By Robert Andre Emmanuel

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Prime Minister Gaston Browne said that the government will be looking to fill the position of Information Commissioner as he once again defended his administration’s rental of the Friar’s Hill Road property which is owned by his son.

During Prime Minister’s Questions in the Lower House of Parliament yesterday, high-ranking members of the Opposition continued to question the Prime Minister over the temporary relocation of the Development Control Authority and the Ministry of Housing and Lands to Friar’s Hill Road.

The property currently housing the two government agencies were leased by the Prime Minister’s son Gaston Browne III, through his company, IF Antigua. The terms of the agreement saw the agencies paying $1 a month for rent.

When asked why the government had no Information Commissioner to help in dealing with requests stemming from the Freedom of Information Act, PM Browne acknowledged that the Commission has been dormant for several years.

“We are in the process of appointing an Information Commissioner; this matter would have been dealt with at the Cabinet a few weeks ago and we are looking at several prospects,” he said.

Previous Information Commissioner Joycelyn Palmer, a retired educator, was appointed in 2019 by the government to replace former Information Commissioner Alister Thomas who served from 2012 to 2018.

When Observer media contacted Thomas following the Prime Minister’s comments, he said that while the Freedom of Information Act was, in his view, not working as intended, but it can still be used effectively, even without the administrative structure of an Information Commissioner not in place.

Meanwhile, the back and forth over the Friar’s Hill Road property drew the ire of Speaker of the House, Sir Gerald Watt KC, who repeatedly chastised the opposition for bringing the question during Prime Minister’s Questions.

He said that, in his view, the questions were better posed to the West Indies Oil Company Board directly.