Thirteen years after the implementation of the Right to Information Act-2020, some government offices have yet to designate their information officers.

According to the National Information Commission, 29 offices have been running without information officers. NIC Chief Commissioner Mahendra Man Gurung said those offices were directed to make provision of information officers for dissemination of information to citizens, on their request. A press release issued by the NIC stressed the need for information officers in each public body to implement the legal and constitutional provisions on right to information of citizens.

The RIT Act stipulates the provision of an information officer in a government body for dissemination of information.

To disseminate information to the public, the chief of a public body has to regularly provide information to the information officer by establishing a separate information section.

The constitution has also recognised the right of citizens to demand and obtain information held by public bodies on any matter of public importance.

“Both the information provider and receiver are equally responsible for implementation of the right to information. Dissemination of information is more important during the COVID-19 pandemic,” read the release.

Though most of the public bodies have information officers, they often refuse to provide information on request of citizens. The NIC said it received 1,013 complaints against public bodies for their refusal to provide information in fiscal 2019-20.

“We settled all the complaints by directing the public bodies concerned to provide information sought by the complainants,” the NIC informed. “The citizens are expected to be more proactive to make the public bodies to provide them with information to maintain good governance and transparency, and prevent or control corruption.” The NIC also said it penalised 24 officials for their failure to implement its directives with regard to dissemination of information, in 2019-20. The act requires public bodies to disclose key information about their activities on a quarterly basis even without the request of citizens.

Despite such legal provision, 90 out of 120 offices were found not complying with the provision on the proactive disclosure of information during the study.

The NIC said it was working on preparation of a five-year strategy for effective implementation of the right to information.

A version of this article appears in e-paper on September 30, 2020, of The Himalayan Times.

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