Right Steps & Poui Trees


GOJ Release Regarding Cost of Commonwealth Secretary General Campaign: An ATI Perspective

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:

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  • 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

Paragraph 3

  • 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

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  • 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

Paragraph 6

  • 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

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  • 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.)

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  • 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

Paragraph 9

  • 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.

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  • 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.

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Three Covid Press Releases (April 13 -21, 2022 – One OPM, Two MOHW) & A Bit More

The Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) Press Release – Wednesday, April 13, 2022

It wasn’t a surprise that some of the Covid-19 protocols were allowed to expire; the government had been signaling the intention to further relax the measures required. I don’t think it was a wise move to remove the mask mandate for enclosed spaces that the public has access to. It was also odd that whereas the mask mandate was removed for people in enclosed spaces, it is still required that people sanitize their hands before entering those enclosed spaces…when what we are dealing with is an airborne virus.

It was interesting that the announcement of the decision not to extend the pre-testing and masking requirements under the Public Health Act order was made via a press release from OPM, though the Public Health (Enforcement Measures) (Coronavirus COVID-19) Order, 2022 was issued by the Minister of Health & Wellness.

Ministry of Health & Wellness (MOHW) Press Release – Tuesday, April 19, 2022

With the requirement to wear masks in enclosed spaces coming to an end on April 15, 2022, on April 19, 2022 the MOHW issued a press release informing the public that masks would still be required in all health facilities, as would protocols for hand washing and physical distancing. The Ministry outlined its reasons for this.

Ministry of Health & Wellness (MOHW) Press Release – Thursday, April 21, 2022

On April 21, 2022, the MOHW informed the country that the Omicron BA.2 variant had been identified in 2 of 88 samples tested at the National Influenza Centre at the University Hospital of the West Indies. However, the samples were collected between January 1 – March 4, 2022, making them one and a half to three and a half months old by the time of reporting. So we know Omicron BA.2 is in Jamaica, but these sample results tell us very little about the situation in the country now, in mid-to-late April.

I wonder why the genome sequencing results we are getting from local testing are for such old samples. Is this the length of time the sequencing will normally take? Or has there been some glitch in the process that is causing the delayed results? Are any current samples being tested? If so, when will we get those results? It would be disappointing if we now have the capacity to test locally but are getting results with as long a delay as when we were sending samples to CARPHA, PAHO or CDC for sequencing.

COVID-19 data from MOHW for the past two weeks – April 14 – 27, 2022

The daily Covid-19 reports from MOHW are showing an upward trend, which is obviously cause for concern. Today’s report showed 115 confirmed cases in 24 hours, the first time since February 13, 2022 that the number has been over 100; that day there were 109 confirmed cases. And the positivity rate has now gone into double digits again; the last time it was in double digits was on February 16, 2022, when it was 10.3%. It has been above the recommended 5% for most of the past two weeks.

MOHW Covid-19 press conference today, Thursday, April 28, 2022

Perhaps the upward trend in the Covid-19 data is the reason for the press conference that has been called by the MOHW for this evening. Perhaps the intention is to reassure the country that the hospital system is able to cope with the expected increase in cases and to encourage people to follow the preventative protocols and to get vaccinated. I don’t know what else is on the agenda and if there will be any unexpected announcements or information.

Something I would like to hear more about is what is happening with Long Covid in Jamaica – what follow-up is being done, what data is being collected, what such data is showing, what support is being offered to people with Long Covid. We really need more information to be shared with the public…with individuals dealing with Long Covid, their families, schools, workplaces. Unfortunately, I am not very hopeful that this will be on the agenda.


The Public Health (Emergency Measures) (Coronavirus COVID-19) Order, 2022 – dated March 18, 2022

On Thursday, March 17, 2022, Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced that the use of the Disaster Risk Management Act (DRMA) to implement Covid-19 emergency measures would end the following day. He said that a few of the measures that had been in place would instead be administered under the Public Health Act but that all others would come to an end.

The Ministry of Health & Wellness (MOHW) issued a press release about the revocation of the DRMA Covid-19 Orders and indicated that a copy of new Public Health Enforcement Measures Order was attached to the release.

However, although the press release was posted on the MOHW website, the attached Order doesn’t seem to have been posted there. It was posted on the Office of the Prime Minister’s website.

I have posted a copy of the Order below.

Some of the measures are scheduled to expire in a week’s time, on April 15, 2022 and the PM had indicated that a review is to take place to determine what will happen after that time. If the Covid data from the MOHW continues on the trend of the past few weeks, it is likely that the remaining measures will not be extended. The rising number of cases and hospitalisations in the UK, the USA and Canada is cause for concern, however, as in the past increases in those countries have been followed some weeks later by increases here in Jamaica.


The Last of the COVID-19 Disaster Risk Management Orders – January 14 & 28, February 11 & 25 and March 18, 2022

In Parliament last week Thursday – March 17, 2022 – Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced the end of the use of the Disaster Risk Management Act (DRMA) for the issuing of measures to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic in Jamaica, after 2 years of use. This was generally expected and the Prime Minister indicated that while most measures, including the nightly curfews, would be ended outright, some would be kept in place via regulations under the Public Health Act. This includes the requirement to wear masks in certain enclosed indoor areas accessed by the public, which remains until April 15, 2022.

The Order ending the use of the DRMA, effective March 18, 2022, was displayed in Parliament but has not yet been posted online.

“With effect from the 18th day of March, 2022, the Disaster Risk Management (Declaration of Disaster Area) Order, 2020 is revoked.”

For completion, I am posting below the last 4 DRMA Orders, all issued in 2022. They are all posted on the Ministry of Justice website, though not all on the Office of the Prime Minister website.

Click here to view the PBCJ recording of PM Holness’ presentation in Parliament in which he spoke about ending the use of the DRMA to implement Covid-19 measures. The presentation was made during his Budget Debate presentation and begins about 37 minutes into the recording.

The Covid-19 pandemic use of the DRMA has come to an end and there is much worthy of detailed study and comment about it, including whether it was the appropriate method for the issuing of these measures for such an extended period of time; the amount of power it placed in the hands of the Prime Minister; how the issuing of the Orders was actually handled; the way in which the details of the Orders and gazetted copies were disseminated to the public and the scope of the measures contained in the Orders and the impact they had on life in Jamaica. It will be worth looking at what lessons, if any, have been learned for next time…whatever that next time turns out to be…


Disaster Risk Management Order No. 12 – Dated December 10, 2021 (& Order No. 11 Amendment No. 2 – November 27, 2021)

The gazetted copy of the current Disaster Risk Management Order – No. 12, dated December 10, 2021 – was posted on the Office of the Prime Minister’s (OPM) website on December 24, 2021. To date, it hasn’t yet been posted on the website of the Ministry of Justice (MOJ).

I have posted a copy below. I have also posted a copy of Amendment No. 2 for Order No. 11, dated November 27, 2021.

Despite the fact that these Orders govern some fundamental aspects of our lives in profound ways, and have done so for the better part of the past 2 years, neither of the two government websites which post these gazetted Orders online has a complete set of them posted. The Ministry of Justice hasn’t yet posted a copy of the current order, 18 days after the measures went into effect. And the Office of the Prime Minister posted the current order on December 24, two weeks after the measures took effect, on December 10. OPM also still hasn’t posted some of the previous orders, Order No. 11, for example, nor its 2nd amendment.

MOJ DRMA Orders page on 28-12-21
OPM DRMA Orders page on 28-12-21

Some would say this is of little significance because fewer and fewer people are paying attention to the measures that are announced anyway and enforcement of many measures is very relaxed and arbitrary. So post them? Don’t post them? Whatever….

But what is the impact of repeatedly announcing measures which are routinely ignored? This might be worth considering.


Disaster Risk Management Order No. 11 Amendment – Dated November 18, 2021

The current Disaster Risk Management Order has now been posted on the Ministry of Justice website, which has a new look for the arrangement of its archive of these gazetted Orders. Perhaps the transition to this new arrangement was what was causing some glitches to the page over the past couple of days. Neither Order No. 11 nor this Amendment is posted on the OPM website yet.

Here is a copy of this gazetted Order, Disaster Risk Management (Enforcement Measures) (No. 11)(Amendment) Order, 2021:


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Disaster Risk Management Order No. 11, 2021 – Dated October 29, 2021

This is a copy of Disaster Risk Management Order No. 11, 2021, dated October 29, 2021. It is not the most recent Order, as Prime Minister Holness announced changes to the measures in Parliament last Tuesday (November 16, 2021). The new Order or Amendment to this Order has not yet been posted on either the OPM or Ministry of Justice website.

A copy of this gazetted Order is posted on the Ministry of Justice website but is not yet posted on the OPM website.


Disaster Risk Management Order No. 10 Amendment – Dated Sept 25, 2021

A brief amendment to the current Disaster Risk Management Order No. 10 came into effect on September 25, 2021. I have posted a copy of the gazetted amendment below.

It is posted on the websites of the Office of the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Justice.


Disaster Risk Management Order No. 10, 2021 – Dated Sept 18, 2021

Below is a copy of the Gazette of the latest Disaster Risk Management Order – No. 10, dated September 18, 2021. It contains Covid measures that are currently in force.

At the time I am posting this blog, Order No. 10 has been posted on the Ministry of Justice website, but not yet on the Office of the Prime Minister website.


Disaster Risk Management Order No. 9, Amendment No. 2, 2021 – Dated Sept 3, 2021

The gazetted copy of Disaster Risk Management Order No. 9, Amendment No. 2 is available online on the Office of the Prime Minister website, though not yet on the Ministry of Justice website. I have also posted a copy below. With many of the measures in this amendment expiring this week, another announcement by the Prime Minister is expected, perhaps in Parliament on Wednesday, when the House of Representatives resumes its sittings after the summer break.