Less Government, More Secrecy: Reinvention and the Weakening of Freedom of Information Law
Public Administration Review, Vol. 60, No. 4, pp. 298-310, July-August 2000
38 Pages Posted: 26 Nov 2008
Date Written: March 31, 1999
Many critics have suggested that worldwide efforts to reinvent government could also weaken democratic control over public institutions. But few have considered how attempts to implement the "new paradigm" in public management might affect a widely-used instrument for promoting accountability: freedom of information law. FOI laws give citizens and non-governmental organizations a right of access to government information. However, recent Canadian experience shows that reinvention can weaken FOI laws in three ways. Attempts to reduce "non-essential" spending have caused delays in handling FOI requests and weakened mechanisms for ensuring compliance with FOI laws. Governmental functions have been transferred to private contractors and not-for-profit organizations that are not required to comply with FOI laws. Attempts by governments to sell information and increase FOI fees have created new economic barriers to openness. Restructuring has provided an opportunity for political executives, public servants, and some well-organized business interests to weaken oversight mechanisms and increase their autonomy within the policy process.
Keywords: freedom of information, right to information, government secrecy, privatization, restructuring
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