Stakeholders in the Information, Communications and records Management sector on Tuesday converged at the Bintumani Hotel, Aberdeen in Freetown to validate regulations of the Right to Access Information Act of 2013. The bill which was passed into law after sustained advocacy from the civil Society organizations, the Media and other interest groups, has never had a regulation to give force to the implementation of the Act.
Welcoming participants, the chairman of the Right to Access Information Commission RAIC, Dr. Ibrahim Seaga Shaw described the validation exercise as an opportunity for the public to look at vague and ambiguous expressions and even excesses in the regulation to make it a proper and universally accepted document that will be later laid before parliament by the Minister of Information and Communications for enactment. Dr. Shaw said the commission is faced with a challenge of implementing the RAI Act for the simple reason that there is no regulation which is why this is a major step in the making the Commission more robust. He concluded that the validation will be followed by the training of Access to Information (ATI) officers in the coming weeks.
Representing the Minister of Information and Communications, the National Cyber Security Advisor in the Ministry of Information and Communications, Ing. Gabriel N’doinje, said there could be no better time for the validation of the RAI Act than now, when the President, Retired Brigadier Jullius Maada Bio has laid emphasis on the digital transformation which will not be possible without access to information. Ing. N’doinje encouraged the RAIC to remain steadfast in its strides, assuring them that the Ministry of Information and Communications is backing the commission in its quest to experience a new era in the access to information transformation in Sierra Leone; leaving the participants with the question, ‘What Do We Do?’ as a watchword as they all validate the RAI Regulation.
Lead facilitator, Lawyer Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai, who doubles as the Executive Director of the Society for Democratic Initiative (SDI) reflected on how civil society fought for the passing into law of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill which subsequently saw the formation of the Right to Access Information Commission. As a pioneer of the FOI law, Lawyer Saffa Abdulai said he feels elated that a regulation is been validated despite the challenges the commission has faced in the past, urging the commission that the road is still long but it is in the right path.
RAIC eastern region Commissioner with special responsibility on Records Management, Mary Wuyatta Karimu said Records Management is an important factor in the promotion of information Rights as the lack of proper records management and infrastructure hinders the full implementation of the RAI Act, a reason why the validation should be taken seriously moving forward.
Executive Secretary of RAIC Hon. Mustapha Braima who chaired the ceremony urged all to make meaningful contributions for a law that will be used by all and sundry and that is key to the promotion of the transparency, accountability and good governance.
Participants raised concerns on sections that speak to the eligibility that who should make a request should not be limited to only Sierra Leone but also non-sierra Leoneans. They also suggested that addresses of the RAIC headquarters and regional offices should not be included in the regulation but rather the website address since the commission is living in a rented property, in matters of life, death and liberty of an individual, no fees should be charged are among key areas that were looked at during the validation process.
The interactive validation exercise was co-facilitated by the Lawyer Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai, Executive director of the Society for Democratic Initiative SDI, Yeama Thompson, Commissioner West-RAIC and Lawyer Alan Benjamin, Legal Counsel-RAIC.
RAIC MEDIA TEAM
Credit: RAIC media team