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Judiciary: CJ/AG correspondence shouldn't be subjected to FOI request - Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

THE Judiciary has released its observations and concerns on the public procurement legislation.

Faced with several requests for its comments on the controversial law and freedom of information (FOI) requests from various quarters, the Judiciary released its comments with the approval of the Attorney General.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Judiciary said it was of the view that correspondence between the Chief Justice and Attorney General should not be the subject of an FOI request. Rather, it said there should be a system for certain things to be classified and declassified over time.

It said to allow an FOI request would set a dangerous precedent. Among those who sought the Judiciary’s comments was former Joint Consultative Council for the construction industry (JCC) Afra Raymond who has also been publicly advocating for the implementation of the law.

The Judiciary’s statement spoke of its role in providing advice in legislation. It said all new laws under review must be implemented but in its administrative capacity, it looked at the potential effect of legislation on its resources and systems.

“The Judiciary must, therefore, study the legislation to determine what it is required to do under the legislation and what systems and new processes and resources it must put in place. We must also be mindful of our constitutional role.

“There is well-established precedent for the Judiciary to be consulted on pending legislation to determine its likely impact on the Judiciary and the administration of justice.

“Impact may also, on occasion, include matters that affect the administrative independence of the judiciary.

“In this legislation, the Judiciary is also a public body under the act and required to function in accordance with the act. It is therefore both subject to and responsible in part for the implementation of the legislation.

“Therefore, the Judiciary in its administrative capacity, and having regard to both aspects of its administrative responsibility, proceeded to review the legislation, to analyse procedural, systemic and resource requirements and to proffer its comments,” the statement said.

The Judiciary concerns - 20 in all - were provided in a 29-page document which it provided to the AG.

“This is not a piece of legislation that one can implement on the fly. It must be planned for and resourced and at the very least, organisational re-engineering of some kind will be necessary. “The Judiciary would, respectfully suggest that if proclamation be first limited to procurement over a certain significant value while the operations in public bodies are studied and regulations and possibly amendments are studied for lesser expenditure,” was one piece of advice it gave.

It also warned that proclamation without everyone being ready “is a recipe for disaster.”

In June, Attorney General Reginal Armour, SC, told the Parliament that procurement legislation could not yet be proclaimed based on concerns expressed by the Judiciary and the Office of Procurement Regulator.

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