Workshop: KPK Right to Information Act
Date: December 18, 2020
Transparency International Pakistan organized a webinar on KPK Right to Information Act on December 18, 2020. The online webinar was attended by representatives of TI Pakistan and social activists from KPK.
The webinar aimed to discuss the background and the current of implementation of the RTI Act in KP particularly in COVID-19 context. The speakers of the session included Mr. Kashif Ali, Program Manager, TI Pakistan, Mr. Ashfaq Ahmed Project Coordinator, TI Pakistan, Mr. Shams ul Hadi, Social Activist, Mr. Hakim Zada from Rural Development Organization and Mr. Ihsan Jhanzaib, Social Activist from KPK.
Mr. Ashfaque Ahmed, Project Coordinator, TI Pakistan gave a detailed presentation on KP Right to Information Act, its mechanism and procedure to file RTI request. Mr. Ashfaque, highlighted that KP was the first province in Pakistan to come up with a robust RTI law and thought its implementation compared to other provinces is relatively better in KP but there is still a long way for the RTI law to be effectively implemented in the province.
Next, Mr. Shams ul Hadi, Social Activist from KP gave a presentation on the State of RTI Awareness in KP. He highlighted the fact that access to information is crucial for accountability. He emphasized that there is a need to better train the journalists on RTI law as RTI is an important tool for better journalism. Mr. Shams shared his own experience of filing an RTI application request to obtain information from the Chief Minister Office. He regretted the fact that he was denied information. He shared that even with the Provincial Chief Ministers Office, the budget information was not present and delaying tactics were employed.
Next, Mr. Hakim Zada gave a detailed presentation on the State of Implementation of RTI law in KP with particular focus on the status and working of Public Information Officers in government departments. He highlighted that PIOs are not trained and the charge of PIO is often given to junior clerks who are not aware about the RTI law. Most of the PIOs are not appointed, and those who are appointed they don’t know about their responsibility which is the biggest impediment in the way of effective implementation of RTI law in the province.
Moving on, Mr. Ihsan Jhanzaib, Social Activist briefed the participants about the procedure for filing the RTI request. He shared his own experience of filing an RTI request to seek information from DHQ hospital Kohat. The information was not given within the prescribed time frame as per the law, and various delaying tactics were used. However, due to their consistent efforts, in the end, they were provided the information which revealed to them several discrepancies which they highlighted in a separate report and presented to the provincial Health Secretary.
In the end, Mr. Kashif Ali, Program Manager TI Pakistan gave the concluding remarks with an emphasis on the importance of Access to Information in the context of COVID-19. He shared that since the outset of COVID-19 pandemic, TI Pakistan has been advocating with the federal and provincial governments to ensure that all the contract award information pertaining to COVID-19 is public. He said that Article 19-A of the Constitution of Pakistan enshrines the access to information as a fundamental right under which citizens have the right to know at what prices the health related expenses are being incurred in the context of COVID-19. Mr. Kashif further emphasized that Rule 47 of Pakistan Public Procurement Regulatory Authority PPRA Rules also emphasizes on Transparency and Access to Information in public procurement. He shared that due to the consistent efforts of TI Pakistan, federal government and provincial governments of Sindh, Punjab and KP have released notifications and made it mandatory for the departments to hoist all contract award related information on the PPRA website.
Mr. Kashif also emphasized that transparency in the procurement and distribution of COVID-19 vaccine is crucial for the equity in the distribution. He said as the governments world over are spending billions on the procurement of vaccine, it should be ensured and made public the agreements which are signed with the companies so that people know at what price the vaccine is purchased and at what price it should be sold in the market.
In the end, Q&A session was held during which the participants asked the speakers various questions. Participants also acknowledged the efforts of TI Pakistan towards the fight against corruption.