Workshop: Punjab Transparency & Right to Information Act 2013
Date: December 21, 2020
Transparency International Pakistan organized a webinar on Punjab Transparency & Right to Information Act 2013 on December 21, 2020. The online webinar was attended by representatives of TI Pakistan and partner organizations from Punjab.
The webinar aimed to discuss the background and the current of implementation of the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act particularly in the COVID-19 context.
Mr. Ashfaque Ahmed, Project Coordinator, TI Pakistan gave a detailed presentation on Punjab Transparency & Right to Information Act, its mechanism and procedure of filing RTI request. Mr. Ashfaque, highlighted that Punjab was the second province after KP to come up with a robust RTI law however its implementation remains weak.
Next, Mr. Muhammad Basharat who is a civil society activist gave presentation on the State of RTI Awareness in Punjab. Mr. Basharat highlighted that there is a gap in terms of awareness of RTI laws at grassroots level. Even the government officials do not know its importance and functioning. He shared his experience of working at the grassroots level in Punjab that government officials provide non-financial information, but information regarding budgeting and expense are very hard to obtain. In such cases delaying tactics are used to prevent the provision of the information.
Next, Mr. Muzzamil Hussain gave a detailed presentation on the State of Implementation of RTI law in Punjab with particular focus on the status and working of Public Information Officers in the government departments. He highlighted that PIOs are not trained about the RTI law and emphasized that there is a need to enhance the capacity of the Public Information Officers on the handling of the RTI requests.
Next, Mr. Nasir Saleemi, President Social Welfare Society shared his experience that he has been working to obtain information through RTI since 2015 when he filed three applications, but none of his applications were responded.
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.