Islamabad — After several Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government departments had failed to share details of amendments in the KP Right to Information (RTI) Act approved by the provincial cabinet, Media for Transparency filed three information requests to seek the text of the amendments.
These requests, posted on 31 January, were addressed to:
- the KP RTI Commission, which looks after the implementation and appeals mechanism of the law;
- the Information and Public Relations Department, which serves as an intermediary between the government and the KP RTI commission. Its secretary briefed the cabinet about the proposed amendments; and,
- the Law, Parliamentary Affairs and Human Rights Department, which deals with drafting laws and amendments.
We have now heard back from the RTI commission on the information request, and the response does not do much to remove the secrecy surrounding the amendments approved by the cabinet.
The RTI commission’s public information officer claimed the commission sent “fresh amendments” to the law department through the information department on 3 July 2017.
“These (amendments) are currently being vetted/examined by the law department. As and when these are vetted the amendments would be sent to the Provincial Assembly for approval. As and when the amendments are approved by the Provincial Assembly, the same would be sent to you (Media for Transparency) as desired,” the public information officer’s letter stated.
The commission’s statement about further vetting of the amendments apparently contradicts its previous claims. The commission, including the Chief Information Commissioner’s office, had earlier confirmed the cabinet’s approval of the amendments but claimed it did not have the cabinet’s minutes of the meeting.
The law department had similarly confirmed the development but refused to share the text of the amendments.
The previous comments suggested that the amendments were ready to be presented to the provincial assembly, which must approve the amendments to make these part of the law.
The RTI Commission also shared amendments made to the KP RTI Act 2013 between 2014 and 2016. However, Media for Transparency had sought the “proposed” amendments, not the amendments passed into law. The reason was simple: the previous amendments, which are already available on the provincial assembly’s website, only made minor adjustments to the Act even though former commissioners had reportedly proposed major improvements for the law during their tenure. We wanted to compare the proposed amendments with the ones that were passed by the assembly and note the difference.
Since the commission did not share the draft of suggested amendments, we are going to write back for an explanation.
The commission’s response letter also confirmed that the rules of business for the information commission have still not been finalised four years after the passage of the RTI Act. Without these rules, there is no clear procedure for the commission to ensure, among other things, the penalties imposed on government officials for non-provision of information are carried out.
Read the complete response from the KP RTI Commission below: