Federal ministries have not provided 39 categories of information required under the 2017 Federal Right of Access to Information Act, while 17 ministries have not set up websites and 29 have performed poorly in complying with the proactive disclosure clause, according to a report in the local media.
The statistics were revealed in a study titled Impeding Transparency, Accountability and Access to Information: Inactive Government on Proactive Disclosure, conducted by the Institute of Research, Advocacy and Development (IRADA), released on September 28 which also marked the International Day for Universal Access to Information.
The study said federal ministries poor compliance with the act’s proactive disclosure clause has hindered transparency, accountability and access to information as a result.
The study found that of the 29 ministries with websites, most perform from poor to bad in terms of the 39 mandatory categories of information they must proactively disclose. Even the best performing ministry in this regard, the Ministry of Finance, scored below 50pc in compliance with proactive disclosure requirements.
Most federal ministries did not provide more than half the categories of information on their websites; only five of the 39 categories of information are provided by a majority – around 80pc – of the 29 ministries.
Under the federal RTI legislation, a ‘public body’ includes all federal ministries, courts, parliament and several incorporated and unincorporated bodies operating under federal statutes.
According to the law, each public body is required to public and upload to the internet information and records detailed in section 5 within six months of the commencement of the act.
Since the law was enacted on Oct 2, 2017, all public bodies were to proactively disclose this information by April this year. However, most public bodies are lagging behind greatly in ensuring their online presence or by providing a limited amount of information if their websites are running.
IRADA Executive Director Mohammad Aftab Alam commenting on the matter said that “allowing people to seek and receive public documents serves as a critical tool for fighting corruption, enabling citizens to more fully participate in public life, making governments more efficient, encouraging investment, and helping persons exercise their fundamental human rights.”
Former senator Farhatullah Babar, who played an important part in enacting the RTI law, said that the law remains inactive for two reasons. First, he said, the information commission, which was to be set up in six months to address complaints against non-compliant bodies has not been established as yet and secondly, the law requires all public bodies to upload basic information such as their actual expenditure, revisions in budget, supplementary grants, performance and audit reports and so on.