Government is considering a court challenge to an order requiring the Cayman Islands to release certain records of successful applicants for three civil service chief officer posts, the Caymanian Compass has learned.
Those records include psychometric tests that were administered to the three successful job applicants during an interview process for the chief officer positions, as well as personal interview statements given by the successful job applicants.
In a 24 July ruling that ordered the release of the additional records sought by an unnamed applicant, Information Commissioner Jennifer Dilbert noted that both the Portfolio of the Civil Service – which manages government human resources – and the office of Deputy Governor Franz Manderson were “in contravention of the Freedom of Information Law with respect to the record keeping for the recruitment exercise for chief officers conducted in January 2012”.
Mr. Manderson pointed out that the process itself, which led to the hiring of chief officers Eric Bush, Alan Jones and Stran Bodden, was handled professionally and comprehensively by a combined public-private sector interview panel. He admitted some of the record keeping method used in the hiring process within the portfolio and his own office were found wanting.
“We released all the documents we had in our possession,” Mr. Manderson said, referring to an earlier release 280 pages of records related to the interview process. “There were some interview notes that were not disclosed immediately. I accept the record keeping issues with regard to the FOI request were my responsibility.
“But there was nothing for us to hide.”
Mr. Manderson noted that some of the records ordered to be released as part of the open records request process might lead the civil service to rethink its recruiting process, including the use of psychometric testing on job applicants.
He said it was his view that job applicants were entitled to “a reasonable degree of privacy” and that the release of certain job interview statements might negatively affect a successful applicant’s future ability to work within the department in which they are employed.
The information commissioner ruled that the ‘overall results’ chart from the psychometric testing would not contain personal information of applicants and while the assessment summary of each report would include personal details, those could be protected by simply not releasing an applicant’s name.
Personal statements made as part of the job applicants’ interview process would be considered personal information “that it would not be unreasonable to disclose”. That information should not be released for unsuccessful applicants, the information commissioner found.
“I don’t see the need for a third party to have access….to your personal statement, in terms of how you see the job, what you intend to do in the job,” Mr. Manderson. “All of the information we have read in relation to psychometric testing is that it is kept confidential.
“When you’re applying to come to work in government it says on the form ‘any information you provide on this form is confidential’. People are expecting a degree of confidentiality.”
In previous FOI rulings, Mrs. Dilbert has noted that simply because a document states ‘confidential’ doesn’t necessarily mean that precludes it from being released under Cayman’s Freedom of Information Law.
Mr. Manderson said government was weighing its options with regard to a judicial review of Commissioner Dilbert’s decision. Nothing had been filed with the court at press time.