ISLAMABAD:(APS)October 06: In its 3rd Monitor on the State of Right to Information in Pakistan, PILDAT looks into the reasons behind the almost 20-month delay in the tabling of the Federal RTI Bill in the Parliament, which was finalized by the Senate Standing Committee on Information, Broadcasting & National Heritage on January 02, 2014.
PILDAT also reports on its September 21, 2015 meeting with officials of the KP RTI Commission, during which the status of one of the controversial amendments to the KP RTI Act 2013 was discussed. Under this amendment, the forum for appeals to the Commission’s decisions on RTI complaints was specified as the District and Sessions Court. During the meeting, officials of the Commission, including Maj. (Retd.) Sahibzada Muhammad Khalid, Chief Information Commissioner, informed PILDAT that the appeals forum under the RTI Act would soon be changed from the Districts and Sessions Court to the High Court.
In this month’s RTI Monitor, PILDAT also praises the progress made on the National Accountability Bureau’s Whistle Blower Protection Bill, which has reportedly been sent to the Federal Cabinet for approval. If passed, this Bill is likely to enhance government transparency and accountability by safeguarding honest officials seeking to expose corruption and wrongdoing within their departments.
Delays in release of the Punjab Information Commission’s (PIC’s) Annual Budget for the previous year have also received mention in this month’s RTI Monitor. Only 47% of the Commission’s Budget for last year has been released so far, according to reports; a concerning development which has crippled the authority in carrying out important functions pertaining to the promotion and enforcement of RTI in the Province of Punjab.
Also during the month of September, the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication was able to successfully launch South Asia’s first E-office system, under which records and files of all Federal Government agencies will be computerized for efficient storage and retrieval. If implemented consistently, the initiative is likely to improve institutional memory and operational efficiency within government offices in addition to facilitating the easy and timely disclosure of information held by Federal Government, both voluntarily and upon request, thereby improving the state of RTI in Pakistan.
PILDAT also notes with appreciation the recent announcement made by the Provincial Government of Balochistan in which it has assured the public that it will review the outdated Freedom of Information Act 2005 still in effect within the Province.
Finally, PILDAT lauds the United Nations for endorsing the right to information by including it in the Post-2015 Global Development Agenda, under Goal 16.10 of the Sustainable Development Goals.