The Right to Access Information Commission (RAIC) calls on all public authorities to submit their Proactive Disclosure of Information (PDI) Schemes and Annual Compliance Report as provided for in the Right to Access Information (RAI) Act 2013 by the 1st February 2022 Deadline.
The Commission wishes to draw the attention of the Public Authorities to key sections of the RAI Act 2013 that are binding on them. Section 8 (2) provides that all public authorities should adopt and disseminate widely, including on their website, a publication scheme which has been approved by the Commission within six months of the coming into operation of the Act or its approval. Section 8(5) of the RAI provides that all public authorities should publish information in accordance with their publication schemes. Section 2(2) provides that all public authorities are obliged to provide access to information they hold on request, except information that is exempt under Part 3 of the RAI Act.
Section 41 on the other hand stipulates that the Commission should within three months after the end of every financial year submit to the Minister of Information and Communication a report for the attention of Parliament and State House on the performance of its functions during that year and on their policies and programmes.
Section 41 (3) again provides that the annual report shall also include an overview of the performance of all public authorities in implementing the Act. Whereas as section 41 (4) states that to enable the Commission to comply with subsection (3), all public authorities should report annually to the Commission on the steps they have taken to implement the Act, including a report on the requests for information they have received and how these have been dealt with. Sections 27, 28, and 29 also oblige them to report on their status of compliance with having a records management unit, a public information officer, and an ICT unit, respectively.
The Commission obliges public bodies to generate timely and quality information and proactively disseminate it for broader access by members of the public and other public authorities. The benefit for this is that the more information routinely published the less need for the public to make request for information, therefore saving time and money. New technologies make it easier to publish and disseminate information, for example, the websites of public authorities.
“The willingness on the part of public authorities to embrace the culture of proactive disclosure of information, both as a key obligation and an essential requirement of access to information rights, is still not at the level the Commission wants it be.” Said Dr. Ibrahim Seaga Shaw, Chairman and Information Commissioner of RAIC.
Public Authorities are to be reminded about a memorandum written on the 12th January 2022 calling on them to submit their annual compliance reports. Also the Commission has been undertaking a process of meaningful consultations in a manner that provides stakeholders with opportunities to express their views consistent with their RAI Act 2013 obligations.
Voluntary disclosure of information serves the interest of the public and accentuates the performance of the MDAs. Over and above, timely submission of their PDI and ACR Reports to the Commission is critical to the transparency and accountability that has reputably characterized the Sierra Leone open governance trajectory.