We are pleased that Cabinet has finally started publishing basic information about its decisions, many of which were previously kept under wraps.
The promised weekly updates, which will keep the public better informed about important government business, were a long time in coming despite years of urging from this newspaper and others.
We don’t know why such a simple step toward basic transparency took so long — particularly when overseas territories including Montserrat, the Turks and Caicos Islands, the Cayman Islands and Anguilla have similar measures in place — but late is certainly better than never.
The first set of information released on Friday, which covered three Cabinet sessions, was fairly rudimentary: It included several appointments, along with a few weightier items like a decision to waive tendering for a $400,000 contract to draft legislation on “economic substance” in an attempt to avoid a European Union blacklist.
But even such basic information will be quite helpful for taxpayers and other residents who wish to track government’s work.
Cabinet announced last week that its updates will not include information about “sensitive” decisions; about matters of national security; or about matters “relating to personal privacy.”
These qualifications seem largely reasonable, and we certainly understand that some information would need to be withheld for various reasons. However, the first category of “sensitive” decisions seems very broad. Indeed, we suspect a case could be made for calling almost much any decision “sensitive.”
Accordingly, the premier and governor should insist on releasing as much information as possible, withholding details only for a very strong reason.
Ultimately, the new system is a big step in the right direction, and kudos are due to Governor Gus Jaspert, Premier Dr. Orlando Smith, other Cabinet members, and Cabinet Secretary Sandra Ward.
We hope other transparency initiatives will follow soon, including the publication of statutory boards’ decisions; freedom-of-information legislation; a functioning register of legislators’ interests; ethics rules for public officers; a whistleblower law; and others.
Such steps are imperative for positioning the government to lead the recovery effort and for preparing for the territory’s eventual independence.