Islamabad — Citizens submitted just over 4,000 Right to Information (RTI) requests under Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s RTI law in 2017-18, according to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Commission annual report.
The report states that around 60% of these 4,078 requests were addressed by government departments. For one in every three requests, citizens filed complaints to the commission for assistance in information provision.
The commission launched its annual report for the year 2017-18 in Islamabad on Friday at an open discussion held to celebrate the International Right to Know Day 2018. The discussion was jointly organised by the Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives, the commission, and German international development organisation GIZ.
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government passed the KP RTI Act in 2013. Local access-to-information activists consider it the most effective RTI law in the country in terms of implementation and the civil society recently deterred the provincial government’s attempts to introduce regressive amendments to the law.
Overall, more than 12,000 RTI requests have been submitted under the RTI law since 2014, according to a factsheet issued by the commission. The statistics shows that out of the 12,419 RTI requests filed by citizens in four years, nearly 7,000 were addressed by government departments satisfactorily. For the rest, the citizens, who were either denied access to records or felt unsatisfied with the information provided, reached out to the provincial RTI commission for assistance.
The commission processed and settled 93% of the 5,103 complaints it received between 2014 and 2018. Another 370 complaints are still under adjudication with the commission.
Citizens submitted the most information requests to the department of Elementary & Secondary Education, the Higher Education Department, and the Local Government & Rural Development department during the period from July 2017 to June 2018, according to figures provided in the annual report.
The report states that the information commission disposed off more than 1,100 complaints about non-provision of information between July 2017 and June 2018 alone.
Speaking on the occasion, KP Chief Information Commissioner Azmat Hanif Orakzai said the RTI law was implemented effectively due to strong support from the provincial government. He said RTI could be used to measure the government’s performance.
“RTI’s implementation is an indicator that shows if the governance has improved or not,” Mr. Orakzai said.
He said the KP RTI law was being used throughout the province.
“If we see overall, people from all 17 districts have submitted RTI requests,” he said. “More than 90% of the applicants got the information they were looking for.”
His statement did not reflect the fact that 98% of the requests were filed by men and only 2% by women, according to the annual report. The law also did not cover the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and districts of Malakand Division during the period from 2014 to 2018. However, the chief information commissioner said these regions might be included in the law’s jurisdiction after a constitutional amendment merged FATA with the province in May.
Mr. Orakzai said there are two main challenges to the law’s effectiveness. The first, he said, is the weakness in implementing the proactive disclosure clause, which orders government departments to make important information readily available to the public without waiting for information requests.
The second is the maintenance and indexing of the public data, he said.
“It will be easy for the Public Information Officers (PIOs) to retrieve the data if it is stored and indexed effectively, which would save a lot of time and work,” Mr. Orakzai said. “We have hired independent consultants who are making manuals for PIOs to guide them in the matter of public disclosure and indexing of information.”