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National

RKD
Riaz Khan Daudzai
August 17, 2015

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Absence of ROBs renders RTI Commission ineffective

Absence of ROBs renders RTI Commission ineffective

PESHAWAR: The ambitious good governance agenda of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is going to receive a huge blow as the much-trumpeted Right to Information (RTI) Commission could not become fully operational in the province even after the passage of two years.
A high-ranking officer in the provincial bureaucracy, who pleaded not to be named, told The News that the agenda of the PTI chief Imran Khan for good governance through transparency could not be fully implemented in the province as the tools such as the RTI Commission to achieve this objective could not take off as expected.
He said the Commission in the past two years has taken action against two officers only for not providing the required information to the applicants. Another three officers have been served with show-cause notices despite the fact that only in the current year the commission received 531 complaints in which 203 are still pending with the Commission.
The officers who were fined Rs25,000 each by the RTI Commission for not providing information include Sher Alam Khan, registrar and Public Information Officer (PIO) of the Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan, and Dr Muhamamd Jehangir Khan, Chief Executive of the Khalifa Gul Nawaz Hospital, Bannu.
The high-ranking provincial bureaucrat said the PIOs no more bothered to provide the information as sought by the applicants under the RTI Act 2013 because after the recent amendments to the RTI law by the provincial assembly the concealing, destroying and denying the information was no more a criminal offence.
He said that the three PIOs who received show-cause notices included Nadir Khan Rana, PIO of the Elementary and Secondary Education Department and Israr Khan, PIO, Law Department, who got notices on November 24, 2014 and Usman Shah, PIO of the Population Welfare department who was served notice on January 19, 2015.
He said the RTI Act 2013 was fast losing ground in the province as the RTI Commission could not live up to the goals set in the provisions of the Act to ensure access to information and public record.
Sharing the data with this scribe, the officer said the KP RTI Commission has failed to formulate Rules of Business (ROBs) for itself even after completion of two years of its existence.
He said that ROBs were a must for any act of law to become meaningful and the RTI Commission without it could not operate. He said that ideally the ROBs for the RTI Commission should have been made before the establishment of the commission and even appointments and other formalities should also have been completed under those ROBs.
However, he pointed out that it could not be done till date rendering the RTI Commission ineffective. He added that the public were keen to get information from the Commission as 117 applicants filed complaints with it in July only.
The data shows that in 2014 the Commission received 290 applications and the numbers rose to 531 in the last eight months in 2015. The data also shows that 82 female applicants also approached the Commission during the current year to get information.
However, the RTI Commission also seemingly failed to deliver as it marked 328 cases as “closed” and 203 still “open”.
Legally the RTI Commission is bound to decide a complaint within 60 days, but there are many cases available on its website (www.kprti.gov.pk) that continued to linger for months.
One such complaint was lodged by Faizan Jahangir under application number 407 on February 16, 2015, but it was decided on July 27 after 160 days.
Another complaint, number 459, is pending with the Commission since February 25, while complaint number 226 lodged by one Pervaiz Khan on November 27, 2014 could not be decided during the last eight months.
There are also many other pending complaints, including numbers 282, 236, 181 and 137 with the RTI Commission for well over the 60 days.

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