In early September 2022, news came that a new and “iconic” sign had been built in Negril.
There was much public discussion about the sign – its design and construction, whether it was a needed or appropriate addition to Negril, whether it would be the tourist attraction it was being promoted as.
The Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett, spoke of the sign’s “creative and aesthetic appeal”, saying it was “artistically and carefully designed”.
Opposition Senator Damion Crawford said it looked like an “old time saving pan”.
A significant issue raised was its cost and whether it was value for money, at J$12 million.
Questions were asked about what contributed to that cost and I reminded that it was possible to get additional information under the Access to Information Act.
On September 12, 2022, I went ahead and made an Access to Information (ATI) request to the Ministry of Tourism and received an acknowledgment of my request from the Director of Documentation, Information and Access Services on the same day.
(The initial email I sent to the Ministry bounced back, so I called and got the correct current contact information and resent the request.)
Today (October 10, 2022) I received a follow up email granting access, with two documents attached:
This was a very straightforward process, which isn’t always the case with ATI requests. I would encourage you to use the ATI Act for getting information, if you haven’t done so before. If you do, I hope your ATI story is as simple as this one.
On Sunday, August 7, 2022, the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) issued a press release entitled “Jamaica’s Commonwealth Secretary General Campaign Clean, Transparent, Principled” in which it gave information about the cost of the campaign for Commonwealth Secretary General undertaken by Minister Kamina Johnson Smith.
The release is not posted on the OPM website and wasn’t tweeted by the OPM Twitter account. I have posted below a copy of the text:
Often when I read statements released by government entities, I think of Access to Information (ATI) requests that could be made to get more information about the topic being dealt with. Here are some of the requests that could be made based on this release:
Documents containing the “already established travel plans and engagements” in place for Minister Johnson Smith prior to the announcement of her candidature (As at January 1, 2022? March 1, 2022?)
Documents containing the budgeted costs for these planned trips and engagements
Documents containing the actual costs for these planned trips and engagements
Documents indicating specifically when and where the Minister’s candidature was launched in London in April 2022
Documents indicating the cost of the launch
Documents detailing the “corporate Jamaica” entities that gave assistance for the launch & the nature and value of that assistance
Documents indicating the specific dates of each of the 4 engagements mentioned in this paragraph & the dates when they were first added to the Minister’s schedule.
Documents containing the budgeted cost of each of the 4 listed engagements
Documents containing the actual cost of each of the 4 listed engagements
Documents setting out the travel schedule undertaken by the Minister covering 7 countries/8 governments in Africa
Documents indicating the cost of (each of) these trips/meetings
Documents giving a detailed breakdown of the $18, 267, 575.07 expended on the campaign. (Many of the categories for the breakdown are already suggested in the press release itself. However, actual documents/vouchers/etc from the various ministries & govt agencies can actually be requested under the ATI Act. A consolidated account/report compiled in response to this request isn’t the only way to go, if an applicant wants more detail.)
Documents providing details of the expenditure for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit in Rwanda of (i) $12, 827,897 by the OPM, (ii) $7,715,585.37 by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and (iii) $5,131,386 by the Ministry of Tourism.
Documents providing details of the expenditure by the government for the previous Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit, in the UK in 2018
Documents referring to any aspect of the FINN Partners contract with Minister Johnson Smith and/or the services provided by FINN Partners. (This would include any internal memos, emails or any other form of communication.)
Documents providing information about the individuals or entities from “corporate Jamaica” who were party to the arrangement with FINN Partners.
Any documents evaluating the ways in which the campaign “served to strengthen bilateral relations and further enhance Jamaica’s reputation on the international stage.”
No one applicant might want to submit all of these possible ATI requests, and there are other requests that are not on this list that another applicant might be interested in submitting. This, however, illustrates that there is a lot of information that this release does not provide and that the ATI Act provides a mechanism by which further, more detailed information can be accessed.
I want to make clear that I am not here questioning Minister Johnson Smith’s qualifications, experience or suitability for the post of Secretary General. I have a lot of respect for her and her abilities.
What I am seeking to do is to point out that even where the government or one of its agencies says that it has been transparent in some regard, there are often many other pieces of information that can be requested for full transparency. To ask for further details is legitimate and the ATI Act provides the means for doing so, if someone wants to request that further information. And that does happen quite naturally in the course of seeking information about a matter…a document that is provided or released may lead to requests for further documents or information.
In a paradigm of open government, which recognises that people have a right to access all the information held by the government, with a few, specific, limited exceptions, it would be troubling for requests for information to be seen as somehow unpatriotic or to be discouraged. If the people are entitled to the information, go ahead and give it. Give as much of it proactively as is possible. Government bodies don’t have to wait on ATI requests to release information that is being asked for publicly. And follow-up questions and requests for additional information should be expected.
I have always liked Section 6(3) of the ATI Act, which says that an applicant for access does not need to give any reason for requesting access. It is an important protection for citizens, as they do not have to justify to the State the reason that they want access to any particular document or piece of information. The State should grant access or deny access in accordance with the Act. The information belongs to the people. It is held in trust by the State for them. They have a right to access it. The State has a duty to provide access.
Flawed as it is, in need of strengthening as it is, the ATI Act is one of the most important pieces of legislation to be passed in Jamaica in the past quarter century, as I repeatedly maintain. And we need to pay close attention to the pending review of the Act to ensure that any amendments to it strengthen, rather than weaken, its provisions.
The Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) has refused to disclose the cost of financing the controversial upgrade of banknotes scheduled for release later this year.
An Access to Information (ATI) request submitted by The Gleaner for the cost to revamp the notes, first announced in Parliament by Minister of Finance Dr Nigel Clarke, was denied by the central bank.
“The contract relating to the cost of upgrading the banknotes is exempt from disclosure under the Access to Information Act,” the BOJ’s Deputy General Counsel Alvana Johnson said on April 22 in response to the request.
Johnson did not state which provision within the legislation it used to shield the disclosure of the cost.
The cost for the upgrade was determined based on bids submitted, The Gleaner was told, but details of the bids were not disclosed, nor were the names of the bidders.
Additionally, the BOJ, which is charged with the maintenance of the financial system’s stability, would not reveal who was awarded the contract.
Excerpt from Gleaner article, BOJ Mum on Money Price Tag, 5/5/2022
I don’t know the exact wording of the Gleaner’s ATI request but the topic certainly seems to be one that would be of general interest – matters concerning the production and the cost to the country of new bank notes that are to be issued later this year. It doesn’t really matter, however, whether anyone else would be interested in the information an applicant has requested. Just as it doesn’t matter why the information is requested. Section 6(3) of the ATI Act says:
The Gleaner says that BOJ denied its request for information and the ATI Act says – in Section 7(5) – that where that happens, the Govenment entity must give reasons for the denial:
The Gleaner included a quote from the BOJ saying that the relevant contract was exempt under the ATI Act. However the BOJ did not say which Section in the Act it was relying on in order to claim that the contract was exempt.
Part III of the ATI Act deals with exempt documents; it has ten sections with multiple subsections dealing with a number of reasons a document might be considered exempt from disclosure. The reasons are varied and include things such as
the disclosure would prejudice the security, defence or international relations of Jamaica
it is a Cabinet Decision, or other official record of any deliberation of the Cabinet
documents related to law enforcement, the disclosure of which would facilitate the escape of a person from lawful detention
the disclosure would reveal trade secrets
the disclosure would result in destruction of, damage to, or inteference with, the conservation of endangered species of plants or animals.
There are many more.
When a Government entity doesn’t give the reason for its denial of access, it is problematic, as I pointed out in this tweet:
Bank of Jamaica (the Bank) recently concluded a contract with De La Rue, a UK based company, to redesign and print the upgraded banknotes which will be put into circulation towards the end of this year. The Bank acknowledges the valid concerns regarding the provision of information about the cost of the upgraded banknotes. However, we are not able to disclose such information as the terms and conditions of the contract with De La Rue, which include the cost, are subject to a strict confidentiality agreement. In fact, personnel engaged in the procurement process were required to sign non-disclosure agreements prohibiting them from disclosing the settled payment terms. Disclosure would therefore expose the Bank to legal action for a breach of contract. The Access to Information Act exempts the disclosure of information relating to the terms of the Contract as to do so would be an actionable breach of confidence.
The selection of De La Rue as the successful printer was the result of a rigorous procurement process conducted by the Bank with the final recommendation being approved by the Minister of Finance and the Public Service as required by the Bank of Jamaica Act. The procurement process is consistent with the Government’s procurement guidelines. Six reputable banknote printers submitted bids which were assessed by a committee of the Bank’s currency experts. Based on confidentiality of the bidding process, the Bank is unable to divulge information on the other entities.
The cost of printing banknotes over the last three years (2019 – 2021) was approximately USD7.0 million per annum. For the upgraded banknotes, the cost will, initially be higher given (i) the significantly larger quantities to be ordered as the redesigned notes will fully replace the current notes over time, (ii) the new substrate, polymer, that will be used, (iii) enhanced security features to combat counterfeiting and (iv) the new designs for each denomination. However, the polymer substrate used will result in cost savings for the Bank over time as the average useful life of the banknotes will increase by at least 50 percent thereby enabling the Bank to order less banknotes and at a lower frequency in the future.
Bank of Jamaica will provide relevant information regarding the new series of banknotes as part of a comprehensive public education campaign leading up to their introduction into circulation at the end of this year.
BOJ Notice, 6/5/2022
BOJ gave additional information in this notice, including the name of the company that was awarded the contract. It also said more about its reason for denying the Gleaner’s request, though it still did not specifically state the Section of the ATI Act it was relying on to claim an exemption. From its comment that “Disclosure would therefore expose the Bank to legal action for a breach of contract“, one might assume that one of the subsections of Section 17 is being relied on but an applicant ought not to have to make an assumption.
In a response on Twitter, BOJ did refer to Section 17…
…which says this:
The issue of the new bank notes has been of public interest and the subject of discussion since the Finance Minister’s announcement in Parliament two months ago. The Gleaner’s article and the BOJ’s responses have raised more questions, including ones to do with the application of the ATI Act. It will be interesting to see if the Gleaner is satisfied with the BOJ’s responses or whether they will request internal review of the BOJ’s decision or ultimately go to the Appeal Tribunal.
On September 15, 2020, I sent the following Access to information request to both the Ministry of Health & Wellness (MOHW) and the Office of the Cabinet (CO):
“I would like to make a request for the following information under the Access to Information Act:
1) Documents containing information regarding the use of curfews as a measure to reduce risk of Covid-19 transmission during Easter public holidays April 2020
2) Documents containing information regarding use of curfews as a measure to reduce risk of Covid-19 transmission during Labour Day public holidays May 2020
3) Documents containing information regarding use of curfews as a measure to reduce risk of Covid-19 transmission during Emancipation and Independence public holidays August 2020 These documents could be dated prior to or after the relevant public holidays.”
I received an acknowledgement from the MOHW on September 17, 2020…
“This acknowledges receipt of your Access to Information requesting documents as detailed in bullets 1-3 below.
Please be advised that we have started the necessay research and will revert to you as soon as possible within the timelines of the Access to Information Act 2002.”
…and a subsequent phone call to clarify the information that I was seeking.
On September 21, 2020, I received the following acknowledgement of my request from CO:
On October 7, 2020, I received this response from MOHW, indicating that no documents relevant to my request were found:
Today, October 9, 2020, I received this response from CO indicated that no documents related to my request were located:
I just want to note that this response does not indicate that there are documents containing this information, but that they are exempt because of being Cabinet documents as set out in Section 15 of the Access to Information Act.
So, there are no documents in the possession of either the Ministry of Health & Wellness or the Office of the Cabinet that contain information about the use of curfews as a measure to reduce the risk of the transmission of Covid-19 during the Easter, Labour Day or Emancipation and Independence public holidays this year. Documents dated either before or after these public holidays.
Increased curfew hours have been announced for the upcoming Heroes’ Day public holiday. I wonder if any documents containing information about this exist at the Ministry or the Cabinet Office?
When news came of the fire that destroyed the Walker’s Place of Safety on January 16, 2018, resulting in the death of two girls, there was an outpouring of grief and concern from officials and members of the public. Offers of help were extended, commitments were made regarding care for the surviving children and donations were given for immediate needs and towards the rebuilding of the facility.
At the time, I could not help thinking of the fire at the Armadale Juvenile Correctional Facility on the night of May 22, 2009, which caused the death of seven girls and injury and trauma to numerous others. The subsequent Commission of Enquiry revealed specific information about the circumstances – horrifying and preventable – that led to the death of those children.
Assuming (hoping?) that lessons had been learned from that tragic event and loss of life, I expected that there would be the kind of thorough and detailed investigation and reporting that would indicate the specific circumstances that led to the death of the two children at Walker’s Place of Safety. I expected that there would be a full public accounting, so that we would know why these children’s lives had been lost, although the lives of so many others had been saved.
I did not hear in the public statements by officials the kind of details that would be needed and perhaps I didn’t expect it. I did, however, expect that in written format somewhere in the government agencies that level of investigation, reporting and accounting would exist. Reference was made in the media to a report by the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA, formerly the CDA – Child Development Agency) and the fire report by the Jamaica Fire Brigade. I made Access to Information (ATI) requests for these documents, in the hopes that they would provide more of the type of information I was expecting to see. They didn’t.
(I wrote two blog posts about these reports – one on May 17, 2018 –
In the second post, I pointed out how little information is given about the circumstances leading to the death of the two children and the need for much more.)
The first anniversary of the fire came and went and on January 24, 2019, I made ATI requests to the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information (MOEYI) and to the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) via the Ministry of National Security (MNS). There is a reason for having gone that route with my request to the JCF, but that’s for another time. The requests I made were as follows:
1. All documents giving an account of the specific circumstances surrounding the death of the two girls at the Walker’s Place of Safety on the night of the fire on January 16, 2018.
2. All documents regarding any investigation or inquiry into the death of the two girls at the Walker’s Place of Safety on the night of the fire on January 16, 2018, including any instructions for such investigation or inquiry to be carried out.
3. All documents related to any aspect of the death of the two girls at the Walker’s Place of Safety on the night of January 16, 2018.
4. All documents related to any aspect of the fire at the Walker’s Place of Safety on the night of January 16, 2018.
MNS acknowledged receipt of my requests that same day, but then I heard nothing further. I emailed again on February 27, 2019, pointing this out and the following day received this response from MNS:
“This is to inform that your request below was directed to the J.C.F. However, in initial communication with them they had maintained that the matter was being investigated and would in this instance could not be disclosed, this was communicated verbally. I did not want to pass on this information until documented information/confirmation was forwarded about same.
Notwithstanding the J.C.F has formally confirmed that an investigation was conducted on the matter and the file was referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions for ruling which is being awaited.
Consequently, based on the status of the matter the documents are exempted vide section 16 (b) of the Access to Information Act. Please be guided accordingly, thank you.”
Section 16(b) deals with one of the provisions for exemption of documents relating to law enforcement and reads as follows:
I replied on the same day asking if I could get some document from the JCF indicating that the file had been referred to the DPP – a memo or cover letter for example, which mightn’t be exempt under the ATI Act.
On March 7, 2019, I received the following acknowledgement from MNS…
“I have requested the document/s that would indicate a referral of this matter to the DPP, I will be awaiting same. It will be forwarded when received. Thank you.”
…and on March 25, 2019, I received the following response:
“Please find attached correspondence substantiating that the matter of the Walker’s Place of Safety fire (case file) was referred to the Director of Public Prosecution by the Jamaica Constabulary Force. Thank you.”
The documents attached were a handwritten certified copy of an entry in the Registry Correspondence Books and a typed copy of the same. An edited image of the typed copy, which is more legible, is shared here.
A list of the names of the people whose statements were sent and a list of the pieces of evidence sent were included under the heading “File Contents”. I decided, however, not to include those in my post, which is why the image is edited. And I note that the document doesn’t actually indicate who the file was sent to. I also note that the file seems to have been sent on February 7, 2019, three weeks after the first anniversary of the fire and two weeks after I made my ATI request to the JCF.
I do not know what decision the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) has made regarding the file…whether or not a decision has been made to prosecute anyone for a crime in regard to the fire or the death of the girls. I wait to hear.
The Armadale Commission of Enquiry and its subsequent report demonstrated the level of enquiry and reporting that should take place if a child dies in a fire in state care, the level of reporting owed to the child, to the family, to the nation. But does it require that a Commission of Enquiry be held to get that detailed accounting? What protocols were set in place after Armadale for the proper investigation of such tragic incidents? And who has the responsibility for such an investigation and reporting?
No-one could be satisfied with the CPFSA report or the Fire Brigade report.
I have been told by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information that they have no information in response to my request about the fire at the Walker’s Place of Safety and the death of the two children, that all such information would be at CPFSA. I have made a request to the Office of the Children’s Advocate, which has asked for an extension of time to consider the request and have been told I will have a response by May 19.
Some weeks ago I went with a couple of others to the site of the Walker’s Place of Safety. There was nothing at the site that would clearly indicate to someone who didn’t know that that was where the facility had been located. The remains of the building have been removed and the site cleared. The type of bush that covers open lots has grown up quickly. There are remains of a play area to the front of the cleared lot and if you walk across the lot and look closely at the ground, you can see small pieces of charred wood sparsely scattered in the dirt. To one side of the lot, there is a tree that still shows signs of being badly burnt.
(Video credit: D. A. Bullock)
The events of that night may be indelibly seared in the memories of those who experienced it directly, of the survivors, of the families of those who died, of the people who helped to rescue children, of the officials who oversaw arrangements immediately afterwards. But just as evidence of what happened at that site is fading, the memory of what happened will fade too – from public consciousness and from the official record – if there is not written accounting to be relied on.
Imagine what would be publicly known or recorded about the tragedy at Armadale if there had been no Commission of Enquiry.
What happened that night at the Walker’s Place of Safety? What led to the death of the two children? Were their deaths preventable? Where is the accounting that would let us know?
I look at the Gleaner this morning and see that the issue of the banning of women wearing sleeveless dresses is again in the news here in Jamaica. The Gleaner’s editorial entitled “Dressing Sleeveless in Jamaica” was sparked by social media commentary pointing out “that women in Jamaica could not dress like Mrs May to enter several government departments and agencies, including hospitals, prisons and schools.” This was a reference to the UK Prime Minister’s sleeveless attire in a formal setting during the official visit of the US President.
But we don’t have to go that far afield to show the disparity between what is accepted in a formal setting and what will get a Jamaican woman barred from entry to do business in some government entities. We only need to look at our own Governor General’s wife at the swearing-in ceremony of PM Andrew Holness at King’s House in 2016. She, like a number of women who attended, wore a sleeveless dress, which was perfectly acceptable attire for that very formal occasion. Yet wearing that same or a similar dress, I would risk being barred from entering some government ministries or agencies.
Back in May this year, someone shared the classic story of her elderly mother, a woman of high standing in the field of education in Jamaica, being barred from attending a meeting at the Ministry of Education recently because she was wearing a sleeveless dress. Undeterred, she returned to her car, tore a hole for her head in a sheet of The Gleaner newspaper, returned with her arms covered in this way and was allowed to enter!
I have been interested in this issue for a number of years and have written a couple of blog posts about it and decided that I wanted to actually see the regulations that guided this sleeveless ban. So I made a request under the Access to Information Act to seven Ministries for
“any regulation/guideline/protocol/etc documenting the Ministry’s prohibition of female members of the public wearing sleeveless dresses or blouses entering the Ministry to do business.”
I also made this request to one Executive Agency.
I made my initial requests on May 29 & 30. This week I received the response from the last of the bodies. Not one produced any document prohibiting the wearing of sleeveless dresses or blouses by female members of the public.
The Ministries & Executive Agency and Their Responses
The Ministries and Executive Agency I made ATI requests to were
Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment & Sport
Ministry of Education, Youth & Information
Ministry of Finance & the Public Service
Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Foreign Trade
Ministry of Health
Ministry of Justice
Ministry of Labour & Social Security
Registrar General’s Department
I selected some of these Ministries and the Registrar General’s Department because they have featured in sleeveless banning complaints in the past; the other Ministries were included just to extend the range. Their responses are as follows.
Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment & Sport
June 5, 2018 – “In response to your request stated below under the Access to Information Act, I am not aware of any documentation from this Ministry regarding any regulation/protocol or guideline for the prohibition of female members of the public wearing sleeveless dresses or blouses entering the Ministry to do business.”
Ministry of Education, Youth & Information
June 8, 2018 – “The Ministry of Education, Youth and Information (MoEYI) is pleased to grant you access. Please see attachment Visitors Dress Code.”
On June 11, 2018, I made two subsequent ATI requests. It is now more than 30 days since I made these requests and I haven’t received either an acknowledgment of them or any documents in response to them.
“1. I note that this document does not include “sleeveless dresses or blouses” in its list of prohibited wear. Is there any document that does?
2. The document sent seems to be a photograph of a framed notice at the Ministry. It includes the words “Signed Human Resource Management and Administration. Ministry of Education. 2009”. Are there any documents (minutes, memos, letters, reports, etc) relating to the issuance of this notice and the establishment of the dress code for visitors policy on which it is based?
Please regard this as a formal request under the Access to Information Act.”
Ministry of Finance & the Public Service
July 9, 2018 – I am somewhat heartened by the indication that the Ministry of Finance is currently reviewing its “practice of restricting access by females who wear sleeveless blouses or dresses”.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Foreign Trade
June 15, 2018 – “I hereby acknowledge receipt of your request dated Wednesday, May 30, 2018. The Ministry however, does not have any documented regulation prohibiting female members of the public wearing sleeveless dresses or blouses when entering the Ministry to do business.”
Ministry of Health
July 3, 2018 – “Please be advised that we have undertaken the necessary research to respond to your request for any “regulation / guideline /protocol/document which guides the Ministry’s prohibition of female members of the public wearing sleeveless dresses or blouses entering the Ministry to do business”.
To date no document has been identified or located. It appears that this is an unwritten policy that has been carried on over many years.
In pursuit of a concrete response we have sent the request to the Cabinet Office and continue to await their response.”
Ministry of Justice
June 22, 2018 – “Reference is made to your Access to Information application below, please be informed that no documents were found in support of your application.
Ministry of Labour & Social Security
July 11, 2018 – “Thank you for your application under the Access to Information Act, wherein you requested the Ministry’s Dress Code to enter its offices. Please note that the ministry in keeping with other Government entities established a Dress Code Guideline for its customers. The Dress Code prohibits:
Low Cut Garments exposing the Bosom
Sheer (see through) Garments
Pants below the waist
It should be noted that persons are not prohibited from entering the building, as long as the clothing is not excessively revealing. Steps are also being taken to review this guide bearing in mind the Ministry’s stakeholders.”
The list included in the Ministry of Labour & Social Security’s response is displayed on printed posters at the guard house at the gate and in the lobby of the Ministry. It is delightfully ironic that the poster in the lobby has a piece of masking tape affixed to it, on which is written the word “sleeveless”!
Registrar General’s Department
May 30, 2018 – “The Registrar General’s Department does not have any formal regulation/guideline/protocol documenting the prohibition of female members of the public wearing sleeveless dresses or blouses.
We do however follow the general rule of most Ministries and Hospitals, which prohibit the wearing of alter backs, tube tops and spaghetti blouses.”
On May 30, 2018, I replied making a follow-up ATI request:
I’d like to make a request under the Access to Information Act for a copy of any document (memo, correspondence, minutes, report, etc) in the possession of the Registrar General’s Department that sets out “the general rule of most Ministries and Hospitals, which prohibit the wearing of alter tops, tube tops and spaghetti blouses” referred to in your email, which you advise that the RGD follows.
On June 11, 2018, I received the following reply: “The Registrar General’s Department does not have a written document, but there is an unspoken, unwritten dress code which is in force.
Please note with regard to Dress codes each organization sets its own policy, which can be written or unwritten. It differs and is dependent on the organization.
Our unwritten policy encourages our customers to dress in such a way, that shows consideration for other members of the public.”
(I remain somewhat puzzled at how the dress code can be efficiently communicated if it is both unspoken and unwritten!)
So there you have it. A small sampling of government entities.
8 entities requested via the ATI Act to provide documents setting out “any regulation/guideline/protocol/etc documenting the Ministry’s prohibition of female members of the public wearing sleeveless dresses or blouses entering the Ministry to do business.”
6 out of 8 indicated that they had no such document.
3 of those 6 gave some background or context for the unwritten sleeveless ban policy/practice.
1 of those 6 made mention of some of the prohibited garments.
1 of those 6 indicated that they had referred the request to the Cabinet Office for a further response.
2 of the 8 entities sent the list of garments prohibited by their dress code. Neither of those dress codes specifically prohibited sleeveless dresses or blouses.
2 of the 8 entities indicated that they were currently undertaking a review of the existing practice.
It is time that this practice – unwritten, unspoken (?), unjustified, whatever its origin – be officially abandoned and those Ministries and other government entities applying it recognise that a woman in a sleeveless dress or blouse entering their precincts will not bring government business to a screeching halt.
A note on camisoles, tube tops, halter tops, spaghetti blouses mentioned by those dress codes supplied…they are different from sleeveless dresses and blouses.
Donkey seh di worl nuh level. I guess the Ministry of Education hesitated to apply the sleeveless ban to a former government Minister. No Gleaner newspaper needed to cover her bare arms?
Two weeks ago I wrote a blog post entitled Barbican Square Roadworks: An Example of Government Disregard for People’s Safety. In it I shared photos and thoughts about the safety risks posed to drivers and pedestrians by the ongoing roadwork being done in and around Barbican Square. I indicated that I had made an Access to Information (ATI) request to the National Works Agency (NWA) and promised to share any information I received in response. So, that’s what I am doing today.
I must say, first of all, that I am very pleased with the timely response by NWA. I wish all government bodies responded so quickly!
On Friday, March 9, 2018, I submitted by email my request for:
1. All written regulations/guidelines/protocols/requirements for the provision of warnings/precautions/etc during road work/construction/repairs. This would include, for example, requirements for barriers, warning lights, reflective tape, cones, flag men, etc.
2. Any requirements specifically for the construction now taking place in and around the Barbican Square area.
On Monday, March 12, 2018, I received an acknowledgement of receipt of my request.
On Tuesday, March 27, 2018, I received two documents in response to my request.
National Works Agency Temporary Traffic Control Template
The document sent in response to the first of my requests is entitled the National Works Agency Temporary Traffic Control Template ; the cover indicates that it was last revised in July 2015. In six sections, it sets out the information that needs to be included when a temporary traffic plan for a project is submitted to the NWA.
An overview of the project is required…
…and a list of “the responsibilities of key personnel involved in the development of the project” (2.0 TPM Team – Roles and Responsibilities). The Work Zone Impact Assessment (3.0) should include details such as the length of the project, whether road closures and detours will be necessary, whether any temporary structures will be needed to facilitate the movement of traffic and pedestrians, an assurance that there will be access for emergency vehicles, whether any utilities will be affected and what the hours of operation will be.
Section 4.0 refers to the traffic control devices to be used and recommends that planners refer to the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices Section 6C. I haven’t yet found reference to a Jamaican document by that name and wonder if the reference is to a US Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration document by that name. Section 6C of that document is about Temporary Traffic Control Elements and is certainly relevant. It specifically mentions that the needs of people with disabilities should be taken into consideration, the absence of which was one of my concerns about the situation in the Barbican Square area.
It is somewhat ironic that the sample template given in the document uses Barbican Road as its fictional project.
Section 5.0 – Project Alterations – requires that if there are any changes to the scope of the project and additional work zones not in the initial Traffic Management Plan are added, the original plan must be resubmitted with all the proposed amendments. Section 6.0 gives a list of relevant terms, and an Appendix is required with all the sign dimensions and diagrams.
2. CHEC Traffic Management Plan for Barbican Road Improvement Project MIDP
The second document I received is entitled Traffic Management Plan for Barbican Road Improvement Project MIDP (Major Infrastructure Development Programme) and is a China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd (CHEC) document dated 28th September, 2017. It is stamped as having been received on September 29, 2017 by NWA Technical Services.
It is a six page document (including the cover) divided into three sections: 1. Profile, 2. General idea, 3. Traffic Management Plan. There are four diagrams in the Traffic Management Plan; this is the diagram on page 5.
The details of the diagrams may be easier to understand when you look at the original document, as the images and legend are not very clear in the copy I received. The details of the plan may also be easier to understand if you are familiar with the project as a whole or if you have training and experience relevant to such planning and construction. I, however, come to this issue as a member of the public who had to travel through the area two weeks ago and was appalled by what I saw. And I find it difficult to understand from this document exactly what provisions were being planned to ensure the safety of people who would have to navigate the area by car or on foot.
I can’t easily tell what specific traffic control devices are to be placed where and when. I don’t know what the timeline for the four steps or phases are. I don’t know if the provisions of this plan were in effect or were supposed to be in effect on the two days I went through the area. What I do know is that on the days I drove and walked through, I saw no organised traffic management, one traffic sign in the vicinity of the Square and multiple hazards posing dangerous risks to both pedestrians and drivers.
The traffic management plan makes this statement: “We should set a flag lady on the flag zone to direct the traffic.” On the days I was there, I saw no sign of any flag lady or man directing traffic in any area of the work in the vicinity of the Square.
I don’t know if the NWA thinks that this Traffic Management Plan meets the requirements of the NWA’s Temporary Traffic Control Template. I don’t know if the NWA deems this Traffic Management Plan to be adequate for the scale of work being undertaken in the vicinity of Barbican Square. I don’t know if it is representative of the plans generally submitted. I don’t know if there is any monitoring done on site to see if provisions laid out in submitted plans are implemented. I don’t know if the NWA has at any point evaluated the safety situation of the work being done for the Barbican Road Improvement Project.
There is a lot that I still don’t know, but there is one thing that I am certain of. The situation I saw on March 8 & 9 was a clear example of Government disregard for people’s safety.
I will be making some more ATI requests and I will share any further documents I receive.