Right to Information: Act Civil society says ‘culture of secrecy’ must be rooted out

PESHAWAR: In order to ensure transparency and curb corruption in government departments, the Centre for Governance and Public Accountability (CGPA), a civil society organisation, has asked the Khyber- Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) government to take practical steps for enactment of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

“Access to information is everyone’s constitutional and legal right but citizens are yet to avail it because of delays in implementation of the act in K-P,” the CGPA programme officer Ameer Iqbal said while speaking at a press conference at the Peshawar Press Club on Friday.

Due to the lack of a legal framework, Iqbal said government officials were not disclosing information to citizens. The provincial governments of Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan have made significant progress in implementing the RTI Act while K-P is still lagging behind in this regard, he added.

Divulging details about his organisation’s unsuccessful attempts to obtain information from district headquarter hospitals Iqbal said, “Effective and timely access to public information is crucial for accountability and transparency, while after the 18th Constitutional Amendment it is now the responsibility of provincial governments to take measures for the implementation of the act in its true spirit.”

Flanked by CGPA RTI Programme Coordinator Abid Hussain, he lamented even the incumbent government had failed to make any effort on the matter.

“The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led provincial government should take initiatives on a priority basis to enforce article 19-A of the constitution in light of the 18th Amendment to give citizens access to information in the province,” he added, hoping that “the new K-P government will abolish the current culture of secrecy and would open all government actions, records and information to public scrutiny as PTI leaders had pledged during their election campaign”.

The participants also asked the provincial government to constitute a committee to draft the RTI bill which should be presented to the civil society and media for consultation. They said the CGPA would also present a model RTI Act for consultation.