The Right to Access Information Commission RA IC has launched its first-ever Annual Report--the 2019 RAIC Annual Report-- at a well-attended press conference held at the Ministry of Finance conference hall in Freetown on Friday 19th March 2021
In his presentation of an overview of the Annual Report, Chairman and Information Commissioner(CIC) of RAIC Dr Ibrahim Seaga Shaw said when he and his colleagues were appointed in the newly constituted Commission in November 2018, they did not inherit any Annual Report , including an audited financial statement, from their predecessors, which he said made it very difficult for them to know where to start. Dr Shaw said his leadership decided to change this and this culminated into the historic production of this 2019 Annual report. Dr Shaw provided brief insights into the key activities and achievements of his Commission during the 2019 financial year under four main headings: 1. Institutional and Infrastructural developments such as the construction of the Commission’s first ever web site; moving office to a bigger, cheaper and more centrally located office saving government US$10,000 per annum, commissioning the management and functional review of the Commission by the PSRU, and the carrying out of internal audit of the period from 2014 when the Commission was set up to 2018 when his leadership took over.2. Projects and Programmes such as its popularisation of the RAI law in general; organising many World Bank and OSIWA funded public engagements and capacity building on proactive disclosure of information, records management, strategic planning staff retreat; as well as the validation of the RAI regulations.3. Compliance and enforcement such as recording 64 FOI cases and complaints in 2019, almost 2 times more than what was recorded in four years earlier (2014-2018) and organising a Compliance Award Ceremony on Human Rights Day. 4. National and International partnerships such as the accreditation of the RAIC as the 24th member of the International Conference of Information Commissioners (ICIC) on September 24 2019, participating in the UNESCO survey monitoring SDG 16.10 which relates to Public Access to Information; ensuring Sierra Leone was among 6 nations that co-sponsored UN Resolution A/74/L.1 which proclaimed September 28 as the International Day for the Universal Access to Information (IDUAI) on 15th October 2019.
The RAIC CIC added that these achievements did not come without some few challenges such as very limited budgetary allocation, very limited staff capacity, especially in the regions, as well as lack of transportation to undertake massive civic engagement and other outreach activities on the RAI Act, 2013.
On the financial front, Dr Shaw said some of the lessons learnt by his Commission from the Internal auditing carried out by the internal auditors they invited from the Ministry of Finance covering the four years (2014-2018) just before his leadership took over, made it to take necessary steps to implement the recommendations therein to improve the internal controls, systems and processes, and proactively invite internal auditors from the Ministry of Information and Communication to conduct an audit of its 2019 financial statement. He added that this 2019 financial statement was also finally audited by Audit Service Sierra Leone before its inclusion in the 2019 annual report. The RAIC boss further noted that the production of its first ever annual report is also in keeping with Sections 39 and 41 of the RAI Act which state that it should produce an annual report at the end of every financial year which will be laid in parliament by the Minister of Information and Communications(the laying of this report in Parliament was done on 3rd November 2020).
Before officially launching the REPORT, which was followed by some questions and comments from the press and other participants, the RAIC CIC paid tribute to his staff, especially his regional Commissioners and Executive Secretary, as well as development partners such as the World Bank, PFMICP(MOF), OSIWA, UNESCO, and NSAs whose efforts he said were also key to all the activities and achievements recorded by the Commission in the year under review.