Category Archives: Transparency and Right to Information

Low budget, manpower shortage thwart RTI function

SAHIWAL: The Punjab government has drastically slashed awareness and advocacy budget approved in 2014-15 after passage of ‘The Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act 2013’.

“The budget has been reduced from Rs30 million (in first year) to Rs1 million in the financial years 2015-16 and 2016-17,” according to Ahmed Raza, Information Commissioner, who spoke during two training workshops on ‘The role and responsibilities of public information officers.’ The workshops were organised by the Punjab Information Commission (PIC) in Sahiwal and Pakpattan in the last two days.

As a resource person, the information commissioner said there’s a lack of political commitment on part of the PML-N government and “some elements in the provincial and federal bureaucracy don’t want to share information with the citizens.”

Thanks to reduction in the budget, he said, the commission had failed to recruit staff against 43 vacant posts during the last more than two years. “There are not more than five to six personnel working in the PIC and three of them are information commissioners,” Mr Raza said.

Zahid Abdullah, National Coordinator, Coalition on Right to Information, told Dawn that the law had been passed in 2013 but the Punjab government had failed to frame rules to implement it and “this is the main hindrance to provision of information to ordinary citizens.”

Ahmed Raza, while speaking to this correspondent, said the PIC could not function without proper allocation of budget.

The Punjab government had promised that a high-tech IT centre would be developed and online complaint system integrated like the one in KP but not a single IT expert had been appointed in the commission, he said.

Sources said more than 600 complaints were pending with the PIC.

Dr Mirza Moeen, a workshop participant, said no concept of transparency could be implemented in governance until citizens were given right to ask questions from public departments.

Published in Dawn, March 16th, 2017

Public participation in budget making urged

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.

RTI not at odds with national security: CRIT

ISLAMABAD: It seems there is relative lack of understanding about the purpose of right to information legislation in government circles as demonstrated by the interior minister on Sunday when he said that no one will be allowed to hide behind the Right to Information Act.

This was stated in a press release issued by Coalition on Right to Information, (CRTI) a consortium of 48 civil society organisations working to protect and promote citizens’ right to information in the country.

Effective right to information laws not only facilitate easy and cost-effective access to information held by public bodies but also protect privileged and sensitive information from disclosure.

That is why independent and autonomous information commissions are established under right to information laws to ensure that information likely to cause damage to the national security, privacy of individuals, economic interests and other such matters is protected from disclosure.

Moreover, information commissions ensure that information is disclosed only in public interest. It is unfortunate that the federal government has not empowered proposed Pakistan Information Commission, to be established under Right of Access to Information Bill, 2016, to ensure that sensitive information is protected and information pertaining to matters of public importance is shared with citizens and journalists in public interest.

The CRTI urges the federal government to empower proposed Pakistan Information Commission with regard to ensuring disclosure of information in matters of public interest and protecting sensitive information.

CHARSADDA: Inspector General of Police Nasir Durrani said on Thursday the establishment of a model police station in the province reflected the real change in thinking, behaviour and priorities of the police. The inspector general of police (IGP) said this in his address on the occasion of the inaugural ceremony of Model Police Station Sardheri here. Elected representatives, including MNA Maulana Syed Gohar Shah, District Nazim Fahad Riaz, elite of the area, and high ranking civil and police officers attended the function. The IGP pointed out that establishment of Model Police Station was the need of the hour.

PIC summons university registrar on 27th

MULTAN: The Punjab Information Commission (PIC) has summoned the Multan Women University registrar on June 27 for violating the Right to Information Act and not sharing information to a complainant regarding recruitment of admin officers.

Punjab Information Commissioner Mukhtar Ahmad Ali, in his order No AD (A&C) PIC-2-247/2016, has directed the registrar to appear with relevant record. He has warned the registrar that in case of non-appearance, the commission may pass an ex parte order and proceed under Section 15 or 16 of the act.

The commission had earlier issued notices on April 5 and 22 but the registrar did not respond. To it, the complainant again filed a petition. Earlier, in a complaint, civil society activist Raza Ali said that he had filed an application with the university registrar, seeking information on recruitment of admin officers under the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act 2013 on March 21.

He said that he sought information on recruitment of admin officers i.e. list of candidates, criteria of selection, copies of educational documents, professional certificates, list of members who were part of interview committee and copies of interview mark sheets of selected candidates.

He said that the university assistant registrar shared incomplete information, stating that some requisition was restricted under Section 13 of the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act.

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