Public accountability: RTI Bill Still Unsigned By K-P Governor

PESHAWAR: Despite popular perception, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s (K-P) Right to Information (RTI) law is still not in place. As promised by the law, the public still has no facility to access information regarding any subject.

On Monday, official sources confirmed to The Express Tribune that while the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) had been busy garnering popularity over getting the bill passed in the provincial assembly, in fact the RTI, also viewed as an effective block to the rampant corruption in government institutions, was still not part of the legislature.

The officials added the K-P governor is yet to sign the bill and so no official notification had been issued regarding the law in the official gazette.

The bill that was passed almost a month ago in the provincial assembly was penciled in to be introduced with the 18th Amendment of 2010 and the delay in its official introduction still persists.

The K-P governor declared the RTI as an ordinance on August 13, 2013. After that, the PTI had 90 days to get the bill passed in the provincial assembly, which it did on October 31, 10 days before the ordinance would have lapsed.

The K-P government which has failed to present the RTI bill to the governor is in violation of Article 116 of the Constitution which states that after a bill has been passed in the assembly, it must be presented to the governor for his approval, said the official.

Muhammad Zahoor, executive director Center for Governance and Public Accountability (CGPA), expressed his concern over the delay in getting the RTI bill approved. He said when the bill was passed in the assembly, it should have been presented to the governor for his assent the very next day. Zahoor said the K-P government failed to show the same kind of urgency as it did when the governor had promulgated the bill as an ordinance.

The K-P government is also in violation of Article 19-A of the Constitution which states every citizen has a right to access information in all matters of public importance. The director claimed not getting the K-P governor’s assent is equal to debarring the country’s citizens from exercising their basic constitutional rights.

The director shared his non-governmental organisation’s experience with The Express Tribune about collecting information in K-P. He claimed the CGPA recently submitted requests for information to 25 district headquarters hospitals regarding the availability of basic medical equipment.

“Only four hospitals responded within the stipulated 10 days, while the remaining 21 hospitals failed to provide any information,” Zahoor said. He added the CGPA was also unable to file complaints against the 21 district hospitals since no provincial information commission has been established so far, to whom the complaints could have been filed.

Zahoor stressed the K-P government should present the RTI bill for the governor’s assent as soon as possible. He also demanded K-P provincial information commission should be established without any delays and said without the commission the ‘very good’ bill will be worthless.