Thursday April 25, 2024

Right to Information Day: Experts demand more transparency

By Riaz Khan Daudzai
September 28, 2018

PESHAWAR: The civil society advocates and proponents of the Right to Know have urged the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government to expedite efforts to bring about more transparency to public affairs and its mega projects like Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and Billion Tree Tsunami.

They shared this view with The News on the eve of the International Right to Information (RTI) Day that is going to be marked on today (September 28).

The citizens acknowledged the efforts of the KP for being the only province to develop a proper mechanism for ensuring people’s access to information the government departments hold. But they called for more transparency to the public affairs for the masses trust in governance.

They underlined the need for the “transparency audit” of the key government departments with regard to the implementation of its RTI law.

Right to Information Day (RTID) is marked annually across the world on September 28. This year’s theme is ‘Trust and Transparency’ that indicates a shift from adopting the principles of the RTI laws to embedding a deeper culture of openness and transparency within the public sector. This year theme, it says, contributes to building a greater trust in the services the governments provide to the community. A number of functions are being held to mark the day. One of the events was held by UNESCO in collaboration with the European Union (EU) on Thursday to assess “role of duty-bearers in promoting the right to access to information”.

Another event is being jointly organized by the Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI), GIZ and KP Information Commission (KPIC) wherein apart from a panel discussion on the subject awards would be distributed as well.

Moonus Kayinat Zahra, Programme Coordinator-TI, CPDI, said her organisation had conducted a study on the state of online proactive disclosure in the KP departments.

The study aimed at evaluating the websites and official portal of provincial departments and it evaluated 25 government departments and five of the special institutions in the province.

She said the official web portal of KP was citizen-friendly in providing information. However, the presentation of the departmental information was not as required under Section 5 of the provincial RTI Act.

Majority of the departments, including the Food Department, Planning and Development Department do not have even dedicated websites.

The provincial government should establish dedicated websites to improve the web presence of governmental departments, she said.

Ex-commissioner of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Commission KPIC Kalimullah said Pakistan had been facing the challenge of good governance since long, but no effort was made to meaningfully address the issue. But after the 18th Amendment the KP enacted RTI Law that spearheaded RTI practices, he said.

Executive Director of Centre for Governance and Public Accountability (CGPA) Muhammad Anwar accused the government officials of sticking to the culture of secrecy and said that even lower judiciary was not providing information to the applicants in KP and Punjab. Unless the governance model is changed, the culture of transparency can’t be welcomed in public bodies, he argued.