Government departments failing to comply with Right to Access Information laws

Sinneh Kamara: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 17 April 2019:

Sierra Leone government chief minister – Professor David Francis, has called on six defaulting government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to submit their Proactive Disclosure Publication Schemes to the Right to Access Information Commission (RAIC) by 30th May 2019, after failing to meet the first deadline of 1st March, 2019.

The proactive disclosure of information is the releasing of information before it is requested in line with the requirement of the country’s Right to Access Information law that was passed in 2013.

The Proactive Disclosure Scheme was launched by the World Bank in December 2018, with ten MDAs taking part in the pilot phase, including the Sierra Leone Police (SLP), Environment Protection Agency (EPA), National Revenue Authority (NRA), National Public Procurement Authority (NPPA) and Statistics Sierra Leone (Stats SL).

Last week the RAIC certified four MDAs that met the deadline. Stats SL, EPA, Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education (MBSE) and the SLP were issued with certificates of compliance at a roundtable enforcement forum held in Freetown past Thursday.

Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Chief Minister, Mrs. Nancy Tengbeh expressed dismay at the failure of the majority of the MDAs to deliver on time, according to a statement issued by RAIC’s communication team.

“Being a liberal institution, RAIC is kindly appealing to MDAs not to miss the 30th May, 2019 deadline in order to avoid negative repercussions,” she said, noting that the Government was in a hurry to develop.

According to the Right to Access Information laws, MDAs that fail to meet the deadline will be subjected to a tribunal and, if found guilty, will face punitive measures.

The Right to Access Information, which is popularly known as Freedom of Information Law, is the result of years of campaign by pro-democracy organisations that believe that access to information by the public is crucial for democracy and good governance.

Campaigners say that the Proactive Disclosure Scheme will ensure reduction of cost and time in the processing of individual information requests and demonstrates a commitment to openness, accountability and transparency, which in turn may increase the people’s confidence in the government.

Chairman and Information Commissioner of RAIC, Dr. Ibrahim Seaga Shaw explained that last week’s roundtable forum was designed to recognize MDAs that met the first deadline while encouraging the others to follow suit.

The Parliament of Sierra Leone is one of the pilot MDAs that missed out in meeting the deadline. But the Head of the Information and Communications Committee in Parliament, Hon. Matthew Nyuma, who is also the Deputy Leader of Government Business in the House, promised that they will work hard to ensure they catch up with the new deadline.

Source Credit: Sineh Kamara, executive editor of Heath News.

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