Insight into oversight : how information commissioners contribute to the achievement of access-to-information policy objectives


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PhD thesis: a PhD thesis.
Insight into oversight : how information commissioners contribute to the achievement of access-to-information policy objectives
Holsen S.
Pasquier M.
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Université de Lausanne, Faculté de droit et des sciences criminelles
Faculté des sciences sociales et politiques (SSP)Université de LausanneUNIL - DorignyAnthropole - bureau 2125CH-1015 LausanneSUISSE
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This thesis examines how oversight bodies, as part of an ATI policy, contribute to the achievement of the policy's objectives. The aim of the thesis is to see how oversight bodies and the work they do affects the implementation of their respective ATI policies and thereby contributes to the objectives of those policies using a comparative case study approach. The thesis investigates how federal/central government level information commissioners in four jurisdictions - Germany, India, Scotland, and Switzerland - enforce their respective ATI policies, which tasks they carry out in addition to their enforcement duties, the challenges they face in their work and the ways they overcome these. Qualitative data were gathered from primary and secondary documents as well as in 37 semi-structured interviews with staff of the commissioners' offices, administrative officials whose job entails complying with ATI, people who have made ATI requests and appealed to their respective oversight body, and external experts who have studied ATI implementation in their particular jurisdiction.
The thesis finds that while the aspect of an oversight body's formal independence that has the greatest impact on its work is resource control and that although the powers granted by law set the framework for ensuring that the administration is properly complying with the policy, the commissioner's leadership style - a component of informal independence - has more influence than formal attributes of independence in setting out how resources are obtained and used as well as how staff set priorities and utilize the powers they are granted by law. The conclusion, therefore, is that an ATI oversight body's ability to contribute to the achievement of the policy's objectives is a function of three main factors:
a. commissioner's leadership style;
b. adequacy of resources and degree of control the organization has over them;
c. powers and the exercise of discretion in using them.
In effect, the thesis argues that it is difficult to pinpoint the value of the formal powers set out for the oversight body in the ATI law, and that their decisions on whether and how to use them are more important than the presumed strength of the powers. It also claims that the choices made by the commissioners and their staff regarding priorities and use of powers are determined to a large extent by the adequacy of resources and the degree of control the organization has over those resources. In turn, how the head of the organization leads and manages the oversight body is crucial to both the adequacy of the organization's resources and the decisions made about the use of powers. Together, these three factors have a significant impact on the body's effectiveness in contributing to ATI objectives.
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30/08/2012 11:29
Last modification date
20/08/2019 15:13
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