By Lansana Fofanah.
The Right to Access Information (RAIC) has called on ten pilot Ministries, Departments and Agencies and non state actors to comply and submit their proactive publication schemes to RAIC as the slated March 1, 2019 deadline has elapsed.
The Executive Secretary, Honorable Mustapha Brima said that citizens can only make informed judgment on government issues, if they are well informed and that secrecy has never in anyway helped any nation to grow.
Addressing journalists yesterday at their new office at 46 Kroo Town Road, Freetown, the Chairman and Information Commissioner, Dr. Ibrahim Seaga Shaw said that, Part 2 Section 8 (1) of the Act “delineates 22 minimum classes of information identified that will form the core proactive publication scheme for every public authority in the country”. But despite the popularization of the scheme, they have not received the desired results they want to see for the disclosure of information by MDAs to the public in an acceptable and easy manner. He said that proactive disclosure of information is the benchmark for good governance, democracy and accountability and that, Acts enshrined in the Commission, are all in-line with international instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
Dr. Shaw said that there had been series of engagement with MDAs by the Commission through supports from World Bank, to popularize the notions of the Commission before the March deadline was slated and that would have seen all MDAs complying with the public disclosure scheme of all relevant information to the public. He said that Sierra Leoneans have the right to know about policies of the government, activities of their parliamentarians, services rendered by institutions without them asking for such information through their websites and that any institution failing to supply information upon request, Sierra Leoneans have the legal right to sue that institution. “Government and politicians make policies on behalf of the people every now and then. Citizens can only hold them to account, if they are privileged to see those documents. The culture of secrecy has to end and we therefore encourage the public to take full advantage of provisions in the RAIC Act,” he stressed. He said that the model publication scheme under the Commission mandates public institutions to proactively publish or make available as a matter of routine, information which is held by the authority and falls within the 22 classified categories of information meant for the public. To publish or produce the methods by which the specific information is made routinely available so that it can be easily indentified and accessed by the public.
Commissioner for Western Region, Yeama Thompson said that since the Commission was established by an Act of Parliament five years ago, it is now that they are pushing for a proactive approach and that they have the power to monitor and enforce the demand and supply of information between citizens and the public.
She said that Ministries should not just wait for a request to be made. Rather, they should update their websites and other means of communication to the public information that is of public interest.