Country

Belize

Belize

Name of law : Freedom of Information Act
First adopted : 1994

Section Max ScoreScore
Right of Access 6 1
Scope 30 19
Requesting procedures 30 20
Exceptions 30 16
Appeals 30 19
Sanctions 8 2
Promotional measures 16 6
TOTAL 150 83

Introduction:
The major weakness in this law is the limited role of the Ombudsman, particularly their inability to overrule a government exemption applied to particular information. The Ombudsman's lack of promotional duties also limits the efficacy of his place in the access regime. Belize was also negatively affected by the lack of an effective public interest override, the fact that this legislation does not trump other laws with regards to secrecy, and the relatively weak recognition of the right of access.
Right of Access

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1 The legal framework (including jurisprudence) recognises a fundamental right of access to information.Score 0 for no constitutional right to information, 1 point for a limited constitutional right, 2 points for full constitutional recognition of a public right of access to information.2 NO Not in the constitution.
2 The legal framework creates a specific presumption in favour of access to all information held by public authorities, subject only to limited exceptions.No=0, Partially=1, Yes=22 Partially SECTION 34 In considering whether or not to claim exemption under this Part, the principal officer of a Ministry or prescribed authority shall act in good faith and use his best endeavours to achieve the object of this Act to afford to members of the public maximum access to official documents consistent with public interest.
3 3.1 The legal framework contains a specific statement of principles calling for a broad interpretation of the RTI law
3.2 The legal framework emphasises the benefits of the right to information?
3.1(Y/N - max 1 point)
3.2 (Y/N - max 1 point)
2 NO No mentioned




Scope

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4 Everyone (including non-citizens and legal entities) has the right to file requests for information.Score 0 point if only residents/citizens; 1 point for all natural persons; 1 point for legal persons. 2 Partially SECTION 9 Subject to this Act, every person shall have a right to obtain access in accordance with this Act to a document of a Ministry or prescribed authority, other than an exempt document. Every person, which according to our expert includes legal entities.
5 The right of access applies to all material held by or on behalf of public authorities which is recorded in any format, regardless of who produced it.Score 1-3 points if limited definition of information information such as not "internal documents" or databases excluded, 4 points for all information with no exceptions.4 YES SECTION 3 "(1) In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires (...)"document" includes public contracts, grants or leases of land, or any written or printed matter, any map, plan or photograph, and any article or thing that has been so treated in relation to any sounds or visual images that those sounds or visual images are capable, with or without the aid of some other device, of being reproduced from the article or thing, and includes a copy of any such matter, map, plan, photograph, article or thing, but does not include library material maintained for reference purposes;(...)" Definitions does not differentiate based on who produced the document.
6 Requesters have a right to access both information and records/documents (i.e. a right both to ask for information and to apply for specific documents).Score 1 point for only documents, 1 point for information2 YES SECTION 3 "(1) In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires (...)"request" means a request for access to a document or record made in accordance with this Act;(...)" SECTION 14(1) Where- (b) it appears from the request that the desire of the applicant is for information that is not available in discrete form in documents of the Ministry or prescribed authority;" S 3 definition seems to be limited to existing material (written or printed data). But 14(1)(b) seems to extend to databases.
7 The right of access applies to the executive branch with no bodies or classes of information excluded.This includes executive (cabinet) and adminsitration including all ministries, departments, local government, public schools, public health care bodies, the police, the armed forces, security services, and bodies owned or controlled by the above.Score 4 points for central government agencies covered: 1 for the head of state, 1 for ministries, 1 for other non-statutory agencies created by the ministries, 1 for state and local government if the government is unitary. If it´s a federalist system, 2 points for the non-statutory agencies. This can be determined by examining the length and thoroughness of the list, if such a schedule exists. Score 1 point for the archives. Add three points and deduct 1 for each exempted central agency (such as the armed forces, police, etc).8 Partially SECTION 3 "(1) In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires(...)" Department" means a Department of the Government of Belize; (...)"Minister" or "Minister administering this Act" means the Minister who has been assigned responsibility under the Constitution for information; "Ministry" means a Ministry of the Government and includes a Minister, Minister of State and officers and servants of that Ministry;(...)"prescribed authority" means- (a) a local authority (a city council, town board or a village council); (b) a public statutory corporation or body; or (c) a body corporate or an unincorporated body, established for a public purpose, which may be prescribed by the Minister by Order published in the Gazette; "principal officer" means- (a) in relation to a Ministry, the Permanent Secretary of that Ministry, (b) in relation to a Department, the Head of that Department, and (c) in relation to a prescribed authority, the chief executive officer, general manager or other similar officer of that authority (...)"responsible Minister" means- (a) in relation to a Ministry - the Minister who has been assigned responsibility under the Constitution for that Ministry, or (b) in relation to a prescribed authority - the Minister who has been assigned responsibility under the Constitution for the subject-matter of that authority. (2) References in this Act to a Ministry shall include a reference to a Department of Government." definitions of department, minister and ministry and expansive. But - does not apply to the Governor General.
8 The right of access applies to the legislature, including both administrative and other information, with no bodies excluded. Score 1 point if the law only applies to administrative documents, 2-3 points if some bodies excluded, 4 points if all legislative branch at all levels of government4 NO Not mentioned
9 The right of access applies to the judicial branch, including both administrative and other information, with no bodies excluded. Score 1 point if the law only applies to administrative documents, 2-3 points if some bodies excluded, 4 points if all judicial branch at all levels of government4 NO SECTION 3 (1) In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires "applicant" means a person who has made a request; " Department" means a Department of the Government of Belize; "document" includes public contracts, grants or leases of land, or any written or printed matter, any map, plan or photograph, and any article or thing that has been so treated in relation to any sounds or visual images that those sounds or visual images are capable, with or without the aid of some other device, of being reproduced from the article or thing, and includes a copy of any such matter, map, plan, photograph, article or thing, but does not include library material maintained for reference purposes; "enactment" means an Act or an instrument (including rules, regulations or by-laws) made under an Act; "exempt document" means a document which, by virtue of a provision of Part IV, is an exempt document; "exempt matter" means matter the inclusion of which in a document causes the document to be an exempt document; "Minister" or "Minister administering this Act" means the Minister who has been assigned responsibility under the Constitution for information; "Ministry" means a Ministry of the Government and includes a Minister, Minister of State and officers and servants of that Ministry; "Ombudsman" means the Ombudsman established under the Ombudsman Act; "prescribed authority" means- (a) a local authority (a city council, town board or a village council); (b) a public statutory corporation or body; or (c)a body corporate or an unincorporated body, established for a public purpose, which may be prescribed by the Minister by Order published in the Gazette; "principal officer" means- (a)in relation to a Ministry, the Permanent Secretary of that Ministry, (b) in relation to a Department, the Head of that Department, and (c) in relation to a prescribed authority, the chief executive officer, general manager or other similar officer of that authority; "regulations" means regulations made under this Act; "record" shall have the same meaning as assigned to the term "document"; "request" means a request for access to a document or record made in accordance with this Act; "responsible Minister" means- (a) in relation to a Ministry - the Minister who has been assigned responsibility under the Constitution for that Ministry, or (b)in relation to a prescribed authority - the Minister who has been assigned responsibility under the Constitution for the subject-matter of that authority. (2) References in this Act to a Ministry shall include a reference to a Department of Government. S 3 - Does not apply to the Courts.
10 The right of access applies to State-owned enterprises (commercial entities that are owned or controlled by the State). Score 1 point if some, 2 points if all2 YES SECTION 3 "(...)"prescribed authority" means- (a) a local authority (a city council, town board or a village council); (b) a public statutory corporation or body; or (c) a body corporate or an unincorporated body, established for a public purpose, which may be prescribed by the Minister by Order published in the Gazette;" Definition of "prescribed authorities"
11 The right of access applies to other public authorities, including constitutional, statutory and oversight bodies (such as an election commission or information commission/er). Score 1 point if some bodies, 2 points if all2 YES SECTION 3 "(...)"prescribed authority" means- (a) a local authority (a city council, town board or a village council); (b) a public statutory corporation or body; or (c) a body corporate or an unincorporated body, established for a public purpose, which may be prescribed by the Minister by Order published in the Gazette;" Definition of "prescribed authorities" includes public statutory bodies.
12 The right of access applies to a) private bodies that perform a public function and b) private bodies that receive significant public funding. 1 point for public functions, 1 point for public funding 2 Partially SECTION 3 "(...)"prescribed authority" means- (a) a local authority (a city council, town board or a village council); (b) a public statutory corporation or body; or (c) a body corporate or an unincorporated body, established for a public purpose, which may be prescribed by the Minister by Order published in the Gazette;" S 3 - definition of "prescribed authorities" includes corporations that perform a public function, but no mention of bodies that receive public financing.

Requesting Procedures

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13 Requesters are not required to provide reasons for their requests.Y/N answer 0 or 2 points2 YES SECTION 12(2) Subject to subsection (3), a request shall provide such information concerning the document as is reasonably necessary to enable a responsible officer of the Ministry or prescribed authority, as the case may be, to identify the document. 12(2) - provide info necessary to identify, no mention of anything more.
14 Requesters are only required to provide the details necessary for identifying and delivering the information (i.e. some form of address for delivery).Score Max 2 points and deduct if requesters are required to give any of the following: ID number, telephone number, residential address, etc.2 YES SECTION 12(2) Subject to subsection (3), a request shall provide such information concerning the document as is reasonably necessary to enable a responsible officer of the Ministry or prescribed authority, as the case may be, to identify the document. 12(2) - provide info necessary to identify, no mention of anything more.
15 There are clear and relatively simple procedures for making requests. Requests may be submitted by any means of communication, with no requirement to use official forms or to state that the information is being requested under the access to information law.Max 2 points. Considerations include that there is no requirement to state that the request is under the RTI law, nor to use an official form, nor to identify the document being sought. 2 Partially SECTION 12(1) A person who wishes to obtain access to a document of a Ministry or prescribed authority shall make a request in writing to the Ministry or prescribed authority for access to the document. Requests must be in writing - only restriction listed.
16 Public officials are required provide assistance to help requesters formulate their requests, or to contact and assist requesters where requests that have been made are vague, unduly broad or otherwise need clarification. Score 1 point for help in formulation and 1 point for clarification procedures2 YES SECTION 12(4) & (5) (4) It is the duty of a Ministry or prescribed authority, where practicable, to assist a person who wishes to make a request, or has made a request that does not comply with this section or has not been directed to the appropriate Ministry or prescribed authority, to make a request in a manner that complies with this section or to direct a request to the appropriate Ministry or specified authority. (5) Where a request in writing is made to a Ministry or prescribed authority for access to a document, the Ministry or prescribed authority, as the case may be, shall not refuse to comply with the request on the ground- (a) that the request does not comply with subsection (2); or (b) that, in the case of a request of the kind referred to in subsection (3), compliance with the request would interfere unreasonably with the operations of the Ministry or prescribed authority, as the case may be, without first giving the applicant a reasonable opportumty of consultation with the Ministry or prescribed authority with a view to the making of a request in a form that would remove the ground for refusal.
17     Public officials are required to provide assistance to requesters who require it because of special needs, for example because they are illiterate or disabled.Score Yes=2 point, No=02 YES SECTION 12(4) It is the duty of a Ministry or prescribed authority, where practicable, to assist a person who wishes to make a request, or has made a request that does not comply with this section or has not been directed to the appropriate Ministry or prescribed authority, to make a request in a manner that complies with this section or to direct a request to the appropriate Ministry or specified authority. Not specifically listed, but 12(4) seems to cover this.
18 Requesters are provided with a receipt or acknowledgement upon lodging a request within a reasonable timeframe, which should not exceed 5 working daysScore 1 point for receipt, 1 point for max 5 working days2 NO Not mentioned.
19 Clear and appropriate procedures are in place for situations where the authority to which a request is directed does not have the requested information. This includes an obligation to inform the requester that the information is not held and to refer the requester to another institution or to transfer the request where the public authority knows where the information is held.Score: 1 point for information not held, 1 for referrals or 2 for transfers2 YES SECTION 13 (1) Where- (a) a request is made to a Ministry or prescribed authority for access to a document; and (b) the document is not in the possession ot that Ministry or prescribed authority but is in the possession of another Ministry or prescribed authority or the subject-matter of the document is more closely connected with the functions of another Ministry or prescribed authority than with those of the Ministry or prescribed authority to which the request is made, the Ministry or prescribed authority to which the request is made may transfer the request to the other Ministry or prescribed authority and inform the person making the request accordingly and, if it is necessary to do so in order to enable the other Ministry or prescribed authority to deal with the request, send the document to the other Ministry or prescribed authority. (2) Where a request is transferred to a Ministry or prescribed authority in accordance with this section, it shall be deemed to be a request made to that Ministry or prescribed authority and received at the time at which it was originally received. There is such a rule. S 13 allows a ministry to transfer the request, as well as the documentation requested, to another body if the information is deemed to be more closely related to that body's function. The last part is troubling, since transfers should not be made where information is more closely related - but since the original timeline for requests is maintained I decided not to deduct a point.
20 Public authorities are required to comply with requesters’ preferences regarding how they access information, subject only to clear and limited overrides (e.g. to protect a record).Score: 2 points for Yes, only 1 point if some limitations2 YES SECTION 17(3) If the form of access requested by the applicant - (a) would interfere unreasonably with the operations of the Ministry or prescribed authority; or (b) would be detrimental to the preservation of the document or, having regard to the physical nature of the document, would not be appropriate; or (c) would involve an infringement of copyright (other than copyright owned by the Government) subsisting in the document, access in that form may be refused and access given in another form. Yes, subject to reasonable limitations.
21 Public authorities are required to respond to requests as soon as possible.Score: No=0, Yes=2 points 2 YES SECTION 16 "<...> the Ministry or prescribed authority shall take all reasonable steps to enable the applicant to be notified of a decision on the request as soon as practicable <...>" Time within which formal request to be decided
22 There are clear and reasonable maximum timelines (20 working days or less) for responding to requests, regardless of the manner of satisfying the request (including through publication).Score: 1 point for timeframes of 20 working days (or 1 month, 30 days or 4 weeks). Score 2 points for 10 working days (or 15 days, or two weeks) or less.2 YES SECTION 16 "<...> the Ministry or prescribed authority shall take all reasonable steps to enable the applicant to be notified of a decision on the request as soon as practicable but in any case not later than two weeks after the day on which the request is received by or on behalf of the Ministry or prescribed authority. " 2 week timeframe.
23 There are clear limits on timeline extensions (20 working days or less), including a requirement that requesters be notified and provided with the reasons for the extension.---2 Partially SECTION 18 (1) A Ministry or prescribed authority which receives a request may defer the provision of access to the document concerned until the happening of a particular event (including the taking of some action required by law or some administrative action), or until the expiration of a specified time, where it is reasonable to do so in the public interest or having regard to normal and proper administrative practices. (2) Where the provision of access to a document is deferred in accordance with subsection (1), the Ministry or prescribed authority shall, in informing the applicant of the reasons for the decision, indicate, as far as practicable, the period for which the deferment will operate. S 18 allows deferral of access where it is in the public interest or required by normal and proper administrative procedure based on an impending event. I deducted a point because this requirement seems unduly vague. In such instances the law requires the ministry to notify requesters.
24 It is free to file requests.Score: No=0, Yes=2 points2 YES No mention of fees upon request.
25 There are clear rules relating to access fees, which are set centrally, rather than being determined by individual public authorities. These include a requirement that fees be limited to the cost of reproducing and sending the information (so that inspection of documents and electronic copies are free) and a certain initial number of pages (at least 20) are provided for free. Score 1 point for fees being limited to reproduction and delivery costs and set centrally, 1 point for at least 20 pages free of charge or for fees being optional2 NO Not mentioned.
26   There are fee waivers for impecunious requesters ---2 NO Not mentioned.
27 There are no limitations on or charges for reuse of information received from public bodies, except where a third party (which is not a public authority) holds a legally-protected copyright over the information. Score: No=0, Yes=2 points2 NO Not mentioned.


Exceptions

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28 The standards in the RTI Law trump restrictions on information disclosure (secrecy provisions) in other legislation to the extent of any conflict.Score 4 points for a resounding "yes" and 1/2/3 points if only for some classes of information or for some exceptions. If the state secrets law is not trumped by the RTI law max score is 2 points. 4 NO SECTION 25 A document is an exempt document if it iS a document to which a prescribed provision of an enactment, being a provision prohibiting or restricting disclosure of the document or of information or other matter contained in the document, applies. No - S 25 - allows documents to be exempted by other legislation
29 The exceptions to the right of access are consistent with international standards. Permissible exceptions are: national security; international relations; public health and safety; the prevention, investigation and prosecution of legal wrongs; privacy; legitimate commercial and other economic interests; management of the economy; fair administration of justice and legal advice privilege; conservation of the environment; and legitimate policy making and other operations of public authorities. It is also permissible to refer requesters to information which is already publicly available, for example online or in published form.Score 10 points and then deduct 1 point for each exception which either (a) falls outside of this list and/or (b) is more broadly framed10 Partially SECTION 26 A document is an exempt document if its disclosure under this Act would be contrary to the public interest by reason that the disclosure would have a substantial adverse effect on the financial, property or staff management interests of the Government or a prescribed authority or would otherwise have a substantial adverse effect on the efficient and economical conduct of the affairs of a Ministry or prescribed authority. SECTION 27 (1) A document is an exempt document if its disclosure under this Act would involve the unreasonable disclosure of information relating to the personal affairs of any person (including a deceased person). (2) Subject to subsection (3), the provisions of subsection (1) do not have effect in relation to a request by a person for access to a document by reason only of the inclusion in the document of matter relating to that person. (3) Where a request is made to a Ministry or prescribed authority for access to a document that contains information of a medical or psychiatric nature concerning the person making the request and it appears to the principal officer that the disclosure of the information to that person might be prejudicial to the physical or mental health or well-being of that person, the principal officer may direct that the document containing that information, that would otherwise be given to that person is not to be given to him but is to be given instead to a medical practitioner to be nominated by him. SECTION 31 A document is an exempt document if its disclosure would constitute a breach of confidence. 26 - disclosure would have an adverse impact on the operation of ministries (overly broad). 27 - personal medical information harmful to the requestor (too paternalistic) 31 - docs whose disclosure would create a breach of confidence (overly broad).
30 A harm test applies to all exceptions, so that it is only where disclosure poses a risk of actual harm to a protected interest that it may be refused. Score 4 points and then deduct 1 point for each exception which is not subject to the harm test 4 YES SECTION 34 In considering whether or not to claim exemption under this Part, the principal officer of a Ministry or prescribed authority shall act in good faith and use his best endeavours to achieve the object of this Act to afford to members of the public maximum access to official documents consistent with public interest. No public interest override - but they get a point for the s 34 requirement to act in good faith in consideration of the public interest.
31 There is a mandatory public interest override so that information must be disclosed where this is in the overall public interest, even if this may harm a protected interest. There are ‘hard’ overrides (which apply absolutely), for example for information about human rights, corruption or crimes against humanity.Consider whether the override is subject to overarching limitations, whether it applies to only some exceptions, and whether it is mandatory.4 Partially No time limits are included in the exceptions.
32 Information must be released as soon as an exception ceases to apply (for example, for after a contract tender process decision has been taken). The law contains a clause stating that exceptions to protect public interests do not apply to information which is over 20 years old.Score 1 point for each2 NO No time limits are included in the exceptions.
33 Clear and appropriate procedures are in place for consulting with third parties who provided information which is the subject of a request on a confidential basis. Public authorities shall take into account any objections by third parties when considering requests for information, but third parties do not have veto power over the release of information.Score: 1 point for consultation, 1 further point if original time frames must be respected and the law allows for expedited appeals.2 NO SECTION 27 (1) A document is an exempt document if its disclosure under this Act would involve the unreasonable disclosure of information relating to the personal affairs of any person (including a deceased person). (2) Subject to subsection (3), the provisions of subsection (1) do not have effect in relation to a request by a person for access to a document by reason only of the inclusion in the document of matter relating to that person. (3) Where a request is made to a Ministry or prescribed authority for access to a document that contains information of a medical or psychiatric nature concerning the person making the request and it appears to the principal officer that the disclosure of the information to that person might be prejudicial to the physical or mental health or well-being of that person, the principal officer may direct that the document containing that information, that would otherwise be given to that person is not to be given to him but is to be given instead to a medical practitioner to be nominated by him. No - there is a 3rd party exception under s 27, but no mechanism for consultation.
34 There is a severability clause so that where only part of a record is covered by an exception the remainder must be disclosed. Score 1 point if yes but sometimes can be refused (eg: if deletions render meaningless the document) and 2 points if partial access must always be granted2 YES SECTION 19 (1) Where- (a) a decision is made not to grant a request for access to a document on the ground that it is an exempt document; (b) it is practicable for the Ministry or prescribed authority to grant access to a copy of the document with such deletions as to make the copy not an exempt document; and (c) it appears from the request, or the applicant subsequently indicates, that the applicant would wish to have access to such a copy, the Ministry or prescribed authority shall grant access to such a copy of the document. (2) Where access is granted to a copy of a document in accordance with subsection (1)- (a) the applicant shall be informed that it is such a copy and also be intormed of the provisions of this Act by virtue of which any matter deleted is exempt matter; and (b) section 21 does not apply to the decision that the applicant is not entitled to access to the whole of the document unless the applicant requests the Ministry or prescribed authority to furnish him with a notice in writing in accordance with that section.
35 When refusing to provide access to information, public authorities must a) state the exact legal grounds and reason(s) for the refusal and b) inform the applicant of the relevant appeals procedures.Score Y/N: 1 point for a and 1 point for b2 YES SECTION 21 (1) Where, in relation to a request for access to a document of a Ministry or prescribed authority, a decision is made under this Part that the applicant is not entitled to access to the document in accordance with the request or that provision of access to the document be deferred, the Ministry or prescribed authority shall cause the applicant to be given notice in writing of the decision, and the notice shall- (a)state the findings on any material questions of fact, referring to the material on which those findings were based, and the reasons for the decision; (b) where the decision relates to a document of any Ministry or prescribed authority, state the name and designation of the person giving the decision; and (c) inform the applicant of his right to apply for a review of the decision. (2) A Ministry or prescribed authority is not required to include in a notice under subsection (1) any matter that is of such a nature that its inclusion in a document would cause that document to be an exempt document.


Appeals

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36 The law offers an internal appeal which is simple, free of charge and completed within clear timelines (20 working days or less).Score 2 points if the internal appeal fulfills these criteria, 1 point if an appeal is offered that does not fulfill this criteria, 0 for no internal appeals.2 YES SECTION 36 "(1) Where a decision has been made, in relation to a request to a Ministry or prescribed authority, otherwise than by the responsible Minister or principal officer (not being a decision on a review under this section), the applicant may, within 28 days after the day on which notice of the decision was given to the applicant in accordance with section 21, apply to the responsible Minister or principal officer concerned for a review of the decision in accordance with this section. (2) A person is not entitled to apply to the Ombudsman for a review of a decision in relation to which subsection (1) applies unless- (a)he has made an application under that subsection in relation to the decision: and (b)he has been informed of the result of the review or a period of 14 days has elapsed since the day on which he made that application. (3) Where an application for a review of a decision is made to the responsible Minister or the principal officer in accordance with subsection (1), he shall forthwith arrange for himself or a person (not being the person who made the decision) authorized by him to conduct such reviews to review the decision and to make a fresh decision on the original application." 14 days turnaround.
37 Requesters have the right to lodge an (external) appeal with an independent administrative oversight body (e.g. an information commission or ombudsman). 1 for partial, 2 for yes2 YES SECTION 35 (1) Application may be made to the Ombudsman for review of a decision refusing to grant access to a document in accordance with a request or deferring the provision of access to a document. (2) Subject to subsection (3), in proceedings under this Part, the Ombudsman has power, in addition to any other power, to review any decision that has been made by a Ministry or prescribed authority in respect of the request and to decide any matter in relation to the request that, under this Act, could have been or could be decided by a Ministry or prescribed authority, and any decision oI the Ombudsman under this section has the same efect as a decision of the Ministry or prescribed authority. (3) Where, in proceedings under this section, it is established that a document is an exempt document, the Ombudsman does not have power to decide that access to the document, so far as it contains exempt matter, is to be granted. (4) Where, under a provision of Part IV, it is provided that a certificate of a specified kind estahlishes conclusively, for the purposes of this Act, that a document is an exempt document and such a certificate has been given in respect of a document, the powers of the Ombudsman do not extend to reviewing the decision to give the certificate or the existence of proper grounds for the giving of the certificate. (5) The powers of the Ombudsman under this section extend to matters relating to fees and charges payable under this Act in relation to a request. S 35 - with the Ombudsman.
38 The member(s) of the oversight body are appointed in a manner that is protected against political interference and have security of tenure so they are protected against arbitrary dismissal (procedurally/substantively) once appointed.Score: 1 point for appointment procedure, 1 point for security of tenure2 Partially There is some procedure surrounding their dismissal in the Ombudsman Act - requirement for an investigation by the Belize Advisory Council.
39 The oversight body reports to and has its budget approved by the parliament, or other effective mechanisms are in place to protect its financial independence.Score 1 point for reports to parliament, 1 point for budget approved by parliament2 YES 28(2) of the Ombudsman Act says they report to parliament. Ombudsman Act 27(1) says their budget comes from parliament. Ombudsman Act 8(1) ties their wage to that of a judge of the Supreme Court.
40 There are prohibitions on individuals with strong political connections from being appointed to this body and requirements of professional expertise.Score 1 point for not politically connected, 1 point for professional expertise2 NO No - s 5 of the Ombudsman Act has some restrictions, but nothing saying that the ombudsman cannot be politically connnected.
41 The independent oversight body has the necessary mandate and power to perform its functions, including to review classified documents and inspect the premises of public bodies.Score 1 point for reviewing classified documents, 1 point for inspection powers2 Partially SECTION 22 (1) A document is an exempt document if disclosure of the document under this Act would be contrary to the public interest for the reason that the disclosure- (a) would prejudice the security, defence or international relations of Belize; or (b) would divulge any information or matter communicated in confidence by or on be half of the Government of another country to the Government of Belize. (2) Where a Minister is satisfied that the disclosure under this Act of a document would be contrary to the public interest for a reason referred to in subsection (1), he may sign a certificate to that effect and such a certificate, so long as it remains in force, shall establish conclusively that the document is an exempt document referred to in subsection (1). (3) Where a Minister is satisfied as mentioned in subsection (2) by reason only of the matter contained in a particular part or particular parts of a document, a certificate under that subsection in respect of the document shall identify that part or those parts of the document as containing the matter by reason of which the certificate is given. (4) The responsible Minister may delegate his powers under this section to the principal officer of the Ministry or the prescribed authority, as the case may be. SECTION 23 (1) A document is an exempt document if it is- (a) a document that has been submitted to the Cabinet for its consideration or is proposed to be submitted; or (b) an official record of the Cabinet; or (c) a document that is a copy of, or of a part of, a document referred to in paragraph (a) or (b); or (d) a document the disclosure of which would involve disclosure of any deliberation or advice of the Cabinet, other than a document by which a decision of the Cabinet was officially published. (2) For the purposes of this Act, a certificate signed by the Secretary to the Cabinet or a person performing the duties of the Secretary, certifying that a document is one of a kind referred to in a paragraph of subsection (1), establishes conclusively that it is an exempt document of that kind. (3) Where a document is a document referred to in paragraph (1) (d) by reason only of matter contained in a particular part or particular parts of the document, a certificate under subsection (2) in respect of the document shall identify that part or those parts of the document as containing the matter by reason of which the certificate is given. (4) A reference in this section to the Cabinet shall be read as including a reference to a committee of the Gabinet. SECTION 42 For the purposes of performing his functions under this Act, the Ombudsman shall have the same powers as a Magistrate in respect of the attendance and examination of witnesses. Ombudsman has the power to inspect most documents, except those subject to certificates under s 22 or 23. S 42 grants the ombudsman the same powers as a magistrate.
42 The decisions of the independent oversight body are binding. Score N=0, Y=2 points2 YES SECTION 35(2) "Subject to subsection (3), in proceedings under this Part, the Ombudsman has power, in addition to any other power, to review any decision that has been made by a Ministry or prescribed authority in respect of the request and to decide any matter in relation to the request that, under this Act, could have been or could be decided by a Ministry or prescribed authority, and any decision of the Ombudsman under this section has the same effect as a decision of the Ministry or prescribed authority."
43 In deciding an appeal, the independent oversight body has the power to order appropriate remedies for the requester, including the declassification of information. 1 for partial, 2 for fully2 Partially SECTION 40 (1) Where there are proceedings betore the ombudsman under this Act in relation to a document that is claimed to be an exempt document, and the Omhudsman is not satisfied, by evidence on affidavit or otherwise that the document is an exempt document, he may require the document to be produced for inspection by him only and if, upon the inspection, he is satisfied that the document is an exempt document, he shall return the document to the person by whom it was produced without permitting any other person to have access to the document or disclosing the contents of the document to any other person. (2) The Ombudsman may require the production, for inspection by him only, of an exempt document for the purposes of determining whether it is practicable for a Ministry or prescribed authority to grant access to a copy of the document with such deletions as to make the copy not an exempt document and, where an exempt document is produced by reason of such a requirement, he shall return the document to the person hy whom it was produced without permitting any other person to have access to the document, or disclosing the contents of the document to any other person. (3) Notwithstanding subsections (1) and (2) but subject to subsection (4), the Ombudsman is not empowered in any proceedings to require the production of a document in respect of which there is in force a certificate under section 22 or 23. (4) Where a certificate of a kind referred to in subsection (3) identifies a part or parts of the document concerned in the manner provided in section 22 (3) or 23 (3), subsection (3) of this section does not prevent the Ombudsman from requiring the production, in proceeding before him under this Act in relation to the document,of a copy of so much of the document as is not included in the part or parts so identified. Power to declassify some information, not all information.
44 Requesters have the right to lodge a judicial appeal.1 for partially, 2 for fully.2 YES SECTION 43 Any party dissatisfied with a decision of the Ombudsman under this Act may appeal to the Supreme Court, and in every such case the provisions of Part VIII of the Supreme Court of Jdicature Act and the rules made thereunder shall mutatis mutandis apply
45 Appeals to the oversight body (where applicable, or to the judiciary if no such body exists) are free of charge and do not require legal assistance.1 for free, 1 for no lawyer required. 2 YES No mention of fees.
46 The grounds for appeal to the oversight body (where applicable, or to the judiciary if no such body exists) are broad (including not only refusals to provide information but also refusals to provide information in the form requested, administrative silence and other breach of timelines, charging excessive fees, etc.).Score 1 point for appealing refusals, additional points for appealing other violations.4 Partially Ombudsman has the power to review refusals and fees, but does not have the power to rule that disclosure of an exempt document is in the public interest, nor the power to overrule government certificates citing that a document is exempt. Deducted 2 points.
47 Clear procedures, including timelines, are in place for dealing with external appeals (oversight/judicial).Score 1 point for clear procedures, 1 point for timelines. 2 NO Not for the Ombudsman
48 In the appeal process (oversight/judicial/) the government bears the burden of demonstrating that it did not operate in breach of the rules.Score Y/N and award 2 points for yes. 2 YES SECTION 38 In proceedings under this Part, the Ministry or prescribed authority to which or to whom the request was made has the onus of establishing that a decision given in respect of the request was justified or that the Ombudsman should give a decision adverse to the applicant.
49 The external appellate body has the power to impose appropriate structural measures on the public authority (e.g. to conduct more training or to engage in better record management)1 for partial, 2 for fully. 2 NO No - they may make recommendations according to the Ombudsman Act s 21, and complain to the assembly if these recommendations are not met, but cannot impose solutions.


Sanctions & Proteccions

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MAX score
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Comments
50 Sanctions may be imposed on those who wilfully act to undermine the right to information, including through the unauthorised destruction of information.Score 1 point for sanctions for underming right, 1 point for destruction of documents 2 NO No mentioned
51 There is a system for redressing the problem of public authorities which systematically fail to disclose information or underperform (either through imposing sanctions on them or requiring remedial actions of them).Score 1 point for either remedial action or sanctions, 2 points for both 2 NO No mentioned
52 The independent oversight body and its staff are granted legal immunity for acts undertaken in good faith in the exercise or performance of any power, duty or function under the RTI Law. Others are granted similar immunity for the good faith release of information pursuant to the RTI Law.Score 1 for oversight body, 1 for immunity for others2 YES SECTION 44 (1) Where access has been given to a document and (a) the access was required by this Act to be given; or (b) the access was authorized by a Minister, or by an officer having authority, in accordance with section 20 or 36, to make decisions in respect of requests, in the bona fide belief that the access was required by this Act to be given, no action for defamation or breach of confidence lies by reason of the authorizing or giving of the access, against the Government or a prescribed authority or against the Minister or officer who authorised the access or any person who gave the access. (2) The giving of access to a document (including an exempt document) in consequence of a request shall not be taken, for the purposes of the law relating to defamation or breach of confidence, to constitute an authorization or approval of the publication of the document or of its contents by the person to whom the access was given SECTION 45 Where access has been given to a document and- (a) the access was required by this Act to be given; or (b) the access was authorised by a Minister or by an officer having authority, in accordance with section 20 or 36, to make decisions in respect of requests, in the bona fide belief that the access was required by this Act to be given, neither the person authorising the access nor any person concerned in the giving of the access is guilty of a criminal offence by reason only of the authorising or giving of the access.
53 There are legal protections against imposing sanctions on those who, in good faith, release information which discloses wrongdoing (i.e. whistleblowers).Score 2 for strong protections, 1 for moderate protections2 NO No mentioned


Promotional measures

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MAX score
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Comments
54 Public authorities are required to appoint dedicated officials (information officers) or units with a responsibility for ensuring that they comply with their information disclosure obligations.Score Y/N, Y=2 points2 NO No - generally this responsibility goes to the ministers.
55 A central body, such as an information commission(er) or government department, is given overall responsibility for promoting the right to information. Score Y/N, Y=2 points2 NO No - the Ombudsman Act seems to set the organization out as a disciplinary and investigatory body, rather than one concerned with promotion.
56 Public awareness-raising efforts (e.g. producing a guide for the public or introducing RTI awareness into schools) are required to be undertaken by law. Score Y/N, Y=2 points2 NO No mentioned
57 A system is in place whereby minimum standards regarding the management of records are set and applied. Score Y/N, Y=2 points2 NO No mentioned
58 Public authorities are required to create and update lists or registers of the documents in their possession, and to make these public. Score Y/N, Y=2 points2 YES SECTION 6 (1) The responsible Minister or principal officer of a Ministry or prescribed authority shall- (a) cause to be published, as soon as practicable after the commencement of this Act but not later than 12 months after that commencement, in a form approved by the Minister administering this Act- (i) a statement setting out particulars of the organization and functions of the Ministry or prescribed authority, as the case may be, indicating as far as practicable, the decision-making powers and other powers affecting members of the public that are involved in those functions, and particulars of any arrangement that exists for consultation with or representations by, bodies and persons outside the Government administration in relation to the formulation of policy in, or the administration of, the Ministry or prescribed authority; and (ii) a statement of the categories of documents that are maintained in the possession of such Ministry, or prescribed authority; and (b) within 12 months after the publication of the statement under sub-paragraph (i) or (ii) of paragraph (a), that is the first statement published under that sub-paragraph, and thereafter at intervals of not more than 12 months, cause to be published statements bringing up to date the information contained in the previous statement or statements published under that sub-paragraph. (2) A form approved by the Minister under subsection (1) shall be such as he considers appropriate for the purpose of assisting members of the public to exercise effectively their rights under Part III of this Act. (3) The information to be published in accordance with this section may be published in the Gazette. (4) Nothing in this section requires the publicatlon of information that is of such a nature that its inclusion in a document would cause that document to be an exempt document. (5) Subsection (1) applies in relation to a Mlnlstry or prescribed authority that comes into existence after the commencement of this Act as if the references in that subsection to the commencement of this Act were references to the day on which the Ministry or prescribed authority comes into existence
59 Training programs for officials are required Score Y/N, Y=2 points2 NO No mentioned
60 Public authorities are required to report annually on the actions they have taken to implement their disclosure obligations. This includes statistics on requests received and how they were dealt with. Score Y/N, Y=2 points2 YES The Minister administering this Act shall, as soon as practicable after the end of each year ending on Y 31st December, prepare a report on the operation of this Act during that year and cause a copy of the report to be laid before each House of the National Assembly. (2) Each Ministry or prescribed authority shall furnish to the Minister administering this Act such information as he requires for the purposes of the preparation of reports under this section and shall comply with any prescribed requirements concerning the furnishing of that information and the keeping of records for the purposes of this section.
61 A central body, such as an information commission(er) or government department, has an obligation to present a consolidated report to the legislature on implementation of the law. Score Y/N, Y=2 points2 YES Ombudsman Act s 28(2)