PESHAWAR: Speakers at a seminar on the right to information have said public participation in budget making process and transparency in the utilisation of allocated funds is vital for judicious utilisation of public funds.
The seminar on ‘Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Right to Information Act 2013 and Budget Transparency’ was jointly organised by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Commission and Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives, (CPDI).
The speakers said the citizens are not involved in the mandatory consultative process to finalise district government budget. Furthermore, the speakers added, the district public bodies do not share information through own websites about allocated and utilised budget on regular basis.
Azmat Hanif Orakzai, Chief Information Commissioner, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Commission (RTIC), said all public bodies in the province are legally bound under Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Right to Information Act 2013 to proactively share information about their allocated and utilised budget on regular basis with citizens through websites.
He said that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Right to Information Act 2013 was enacted to change the culture of secrecy in the bureaucracy.The provincial government should allocate funds for public bodies for the proactive disclosure of information in the budget as envisaged in the law.
Member National Assembly (MNA) Sajid Nawaz said as to how could citizens be involved in budget making process at the district level when there was little information about different stages of budget making process.
He said the budget timelines were not followed during the budget making process. He also said as mentioned in the budget rules, it is duty of head of public bodies to involve stakeholders in budget making process.
The legislator said that Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had started preparing citizen budget documents so that citizens could understand budget issues. He also said that if public bodies start providing information in proactive manner, citizens will not have to request information.
Additional Secretary, Local Government Department, Barkatullah Khan said that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Right to Information Act 2013 was promoting culture of transparency in government departments.