In limbo: RTI information commission incomplete as deadline looms

PESHAWAR: The information commission under the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Right to Information (RTI) Act is yet to be established, rendering the act itself dysfunctional till then.

The K-P RTI commission has to be established within 120 days of the enactment of the law, an official at the Civil Secretariat, Peshawar told The Express Tribune. “The 120-day deadline to appoint commissioners is fast approaching as the law was signed by K-P governor early November 2013. But the commission is yet to be completed as two more commissioners have not been appointed.”

The chief information commissioner for RTI was appointed on December 6. However, the remaining two commissioners constituting the committee are yet to be notified. This is resulting in delays in the commission becoming operational, added the official.

While this much is true, the real issue lies much deeper. The Express Tribune has learnt information officers who were to be placed in public institutes across the province are also yet to be designated for most of these institutes.

When contacted, Centre for Governance and Public Accountability (CGPA) Executive Director Muhammad Zahoor said the law cannot be operational until remaining information commissioners are appointed.

He said these information commissioners are to be nominated by the civil society and the bar association and that the government should liaise with stakeholders so the remaining appointments can be made as per the act’s provisions.

Revealing technical problems in designating information officers, the director revealed that presently, information officers are being appointed without proper protocol, so every institution uses its own best judgment to appoint these officers.

However, in case of transfers of these officers, who are already serving under other titles in their respective public institutes, a gap will ensue until another information officer is appointed. The CGPA director suggested that instead of the incumbent practice, a specific post in every department should have additional responsibilities of the information officer. This would mean that even if that officer gets transferred, the one who replaces him will also handle responsibilities of being an information officer.

Shedding light over his own experience with respect to invoking the act to get information, Zahoor said the CGPA had filed 48 information requests on January 16, 2014. The governance and accountability body had sent information requests to district education officers (DEOs) in all districts of the province to seek information about the number of schools in each district, student enrolment at primary schools, primary school dropouts, teacher performance, teacher trainings, vacancies, allocation of budgets for parent-teacher meetings, number of such meetings and copies of district education budgets for the current fiscal year.

Out of the 48 requests, only eight DEOs provided information. These districts included Peshawar, Battagram, Charsadda, Karak, Kohat, Buner, Lakki Marwat and Swat. The remaining DEOs failed to provide information within the stipulated 10 days.