Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi says he sees no need for consultation on amendments to the Freedom of Information Act, but has admitted that he had misjudged the response to the proposed changes.
To remedy this, he has circulated amendments to the Miscellaneous Provisions (Tax, Amnesty, Pensions, Freedom of Information, National Insurance, Central Bank and Non-Profit Organisations) Bill 2019 to the Opposition. The media also received a copy at a press conference the AG held this afternoon.
These amendments include dialling back on the period proposed for FOIA request responses and the review period for the Office of the Attorney General. This means instead of giving a public authority 90 days to respond to a request, instead of the current 30, the amendment now stipulates 45 days.
Instead of a 90-day review period for the AG's office, the amendment proposes 30 days, with a stipulation that the AG must be given notice at the same time as the applicant, as well as all relevant documents.
While Al-Rawi acknowledged inefficiencies in the FOIA system, he said the priority was to save the State from paying exorbitant costs to people who take public authorities to court for judicial review when they do not get the information they seek.
He gave examples of costs ranging from over $200,000 to $1.7 million.
These examples also showed the lengthy period for responses by public authorities, which range from seven months to over a year.
The amended bill will be debated in the Lower House this Friday. It was originally scheduled for debate yesterday.
This story will be updated with additional information.