Sunday, May 28, 2017

Appoint Information Officers as required by RTI Act: Commission.

The Sunday Times: Srilanka: Sunday, May 28, 2017.
Commission pleased, encouraged by public’s increasing use of RTI
The Right to Information Commission (RTIC) has called on Public Authorities (PA) who have yet to comply, to abide by the mandatory statutory duty, to name and publicise the appointment of Information Officers (IO) and Designated Officers (DO), as required by the Act.
The RTIC which came into operation on February 3, 2017, in a statement said, “It notes its appreciation with regard to the significant numbers of PAs and citizens alike, who have reached out to the RTIC during the intervening period.”
“This indicates the support and interest evidenced by the public who, in growing numbers, are using their ‘RTI’, guaranteed to them under the Act. It is very encouraging to see that, some PAs are, in fact, voluntarily complying with the pro-active disclosure requirements of the Act”, the RTIC said.
“As the statutorily independent appellate body established under the Act, the RTIC is pleased to announce that, it has recently concluded the hearing of two Appeals, during which process, both Appellants received the information requested under the Act, from PAs noticed to appear before the RTIC, to the satisfaction of the parties concerned. Currently, several more Appeals are pending hearing.” The RTIC said it is receiving many requests for guidance from PAs, in respect of procedural and substantive aspects of the RTI Act, along with letters from Citizens (including public officers themselves) on injustices caused to them by the denial of information. Approximately 300 such letters have been received during the past months.
“The RTIC is heartened by the use of the RTI as evinced thereto. Responses to the letters have been on an individual basis, strictly in chronological order of the date of receipt. As the RTIC is still operating with a skeletal staff, from temporary premises, it is responding as speedily as possible to the same,” it said. “Particularly, with regard to advice requested by IOs of PAs, the RTIC notes it will respond in terms of Section 5(5) of the Act, where advice is sought regarding a procedural matter ‘connected with the grant of access to any information’.”
The RTIC said, “However, it is regretfully unable to advice on a substantive matter relating to the application of the Act, given that, this may prejudice the hearing of that same matter, in the event it comes up formally in appeal. In this regard, the RTIC wishes to emphasise, the primary aim of the RTI Act is the maximum disclosure of information, subject to narrowly drawn exemptions, that again, must yield to the overriding principle of the public interest.”
“The website will have links to the RTIC’s Strategic Implementation Plan for the years 2017-2019, concluded appeals and relevant documents relating to the RTI. Importantly, it will also feature drafts of Rules on Inquiries and Report Formats (under Section 10) as per Section 42 of the Act, as well as Guidelines relating to the proactive disclosure of PAs under Sections 8 and 9 of the Act. These draft Rules and Guidance are being put into the public domain for feedback, prior to finalisation and gazetting,” the RTIC added. The RTIC said it welcomes public responses and hopes to soon embark on the facilitation of training activities for public officials, as required under the Act.