Sunday, February 12, 2017

RTI Commission cash-starved.

The Sunday Times: Srilanka: Sandum Jayaverdena : Sunday, February 12, 2017.
The independent Right to Information (RTI) Commission will have to apply to the Presidential Secretariat each time it needs funds though the RTI Act specifies that it must have its own fund, activists say.
As such, the commission will receive ad hoc injections of cash as and when it asks for it. This situation will continue until a separate allocation is made in the 2018 budget as is done for other independent commissions.
The RTI Act states that the commission must have its own independent fund into which all money voted by Parliament must be deposited. This requirement is common to all independent commissions and was included in the RTI Act to ensure financial autonomy of the commission.
This was emphasised also by Toby Mendel, Executive Director of the global RTI rating agency, the Centre for Law and Democracy. He said the successful implementation of an RTI Act required an independent and effective oversight body.
“Independence, crucially, depends on the manner of appointment of members and the way funds are allocated via a parliamentary vote,” Mr. Mendel said. “Funding should be sufficient to allow the body to do its job effectively, to set its structure and appoint its staff, and. Once allocated, the money should be controlled by the commission.”
But so far, only Rs. 3 million has been allocated to the RTI Commission via the President’s Office. But Rs. 25 million has been allocated to the Mass Media Ministry for work connected with the implementation of the RTI Act. The Government says it has no intention of denying the financial independence of the commission. Sufficient funds will be passed in next year’s budget to rectify the situation.