Thursday,29 June 2017

Majority PIOs lack awareness of RTI Act


Interviews

Majority PIOs lack awareness of RTI Act

2015-06-10 10:36:56

Majority PIOs lack awareness of RTI Act

Dr S Imtiyaz Ahmed has een the Information Commissioner posted at Andhra Pradesh Information Commission for over three years. Speaking to The News, he shared his experiences and made valuale suggestions for creating awareness among the Pulic Authorities as well as the pulic with respect Right to Information Act. Excerpts of the interview...

The News ureau

You have een the Information Commissioner for over three years. What are your experiences and oserations during the period with regard to implementation of the Right to Information Act 2005?

I am surprised to find 50 to 60 percent of Pulic Information Officers lack complete knowledge of the Act even today. This has een causing troule oth for the PIOs and the RTI applicants. I have noticed many PIOs claiming they are ignorant of the procedures. Steps taken y the governments to create awareness are not yielding fruits at the field level and this is one of the main reasons for the delay in providing information for the applicants.

What has een your priority as an Information Commissioner?

I ensure that information to the applicants is provided at the earliest y the PIOs. I ensure implementation of my orders and continuously monitor the status of implementation so that the RTI applicants get the information sought for.

What are the prolems faced y Information Commission in the implementation of RTI Act?

>It is a good question. We are facing serious staff crunch. We hardly have six to seven persons, that too on temporary asis, to assist each Information Commissioner while in states like Maharashtra each Information Commissioner is provided with aout 25 office assistants.

Further, those working in Maharashtra are permanent employees. This would ensure accountaility esides improving the efficiency of the information commission. We can ensure speedy disposal of applications if we get adequate manpower.

First appellate authorities are not properly responding. Will the Information Commission recommend training for them?

Yes. As I said it is the responsiility of the government to see that the oject of the RTI Act is achieved y imparting proper training for the PIOs and the first appellate authorities y way of conducting awareness programmes. Further, the government should take action whenever Information Commission recommends something in connection with the PIOs or appellate authorities. Anyway, we keep writing to the government on the need for providing proper training for the PIOs and appellate authorities.

Is it not possile to introduce pulic private partnership (PPP) for the implementation of RTI Act?

It is a good idea to have pulic private partnership (PPP) model. ut care should e taken that only selfless NGOs are allowed to work with the Information Commission and other government departments in conducting awareness programmes. The awareness programmes could e conducted oth for the Pulic Information Officers and the general pulic as well.

What do you think is the reason the governments are not paying attention for effective implementation of RTI Act?

This is a question which should e answered y the government. Though the urden of effective implementation, creating awareness with respect to RTI lies with the government according to Section 26 of the Act, I suggest the government should entrust the responsiility to the Commission. The government should provide adequate udgetary assistance for the purpose along with infrastructure and manpower.

What could e the est use of RTI Act?

The Act should e used in pulic interest which should e genuine. However, due to lack of awareness, vague applications are made y many while some are resorting to misuse. Awareness is the need of the hour.

Do you ensure protection for applicants in case of threat to their lives?

Certainly we take steps to protect the RTI applicants. We write to the authorities concerned in some cases direct the police stations concerned to provide safety. Further, we warn the pulic information officers if they resort to any mischief against the applicants.

Do you think people should have judicial ackground to seek appointment as Information Commissioner?

It is good if people with judicial ackground ecome Information Commissioners. However, Section 15(3) of the RTI Act says that expert from any field can seek appointment as Information Commissioner.

Do you think common people are increasingly using the RTI Act?

I don?t think so ecause majority of the common people are still unaware of the RTI Act. For example, the governments are introducing welfare schemes for the downtrodden. ut the actual eneficieries are unaware of it though they can make use of the RTI Act to get complete information aout the schemes.

Some PIOs complain that RTI Act has ecome a tool to harass them. Do you agree with that?

That is not true. If the PIOs stick to rule ook and provide the information as per law, noody can harass them. Those who lack awareness only make such complaints.

Many government departments including Education Department are not disclosing the information on their wesites as stipulated in Section 4(1)() of the Act. What is the remedy for this?

True. Not only Section 4(1)() disclosure ut the PIOs are not following Section 4(1)(a) which stipulates that all the records must e streamlined and updated so that information could e provided to the applicants as quickly as possile. Aout 80 percent of the PIOs are not following the rules. The government should take it seriously and NGOs and civil society must play an active role in changing this situation.

Have you ever filed RTI application?

Yes. I have filed numer of applications efore I entered the Commission. Since all my applications were in pulic interest, I did get information in some instances government could recover the money mismanaged y certain corrupt officials.

What is your message for our readers?

Make use of RTI Act and seek information for pulic interest. Never ever misuse the provisions of the Act.

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Majority PIOs lack awareness of RTI Act

2015-06-10 10:36:56

Dr S Imtiyaz Ahmed has een the Information Commissioner posted at Andhra Pradesh Information Commission for over three years. Speaking to The News, he shared his experiences and made valuale suggestions for creating awareness among the Pulic Authorities as well as the pulic with respect Right to Information Act. Excerpts of the interview...

The News ureau

You have een the Information Commissioner for over three years. What are your experiences and oserations during the period with regard to implementation of the Right to Information Act 2005?

I am surprised to find 50 to 60 percent of Pulic Information Officers lack complete knowledge of the Act even today. This has een causing troule oth for the PIOs and the RTI applicants. I have noticed many PIOs claiming they are ignorant of the procedures. Steps taken y the governments to create awareness are not yielding fruits at the field level and this is one of the main reasons for the delay in providing information for the applicants.

What has een your priority as an Information Commissioner?

I ensure that information to the applicants is provided at the earliest y the PIOs. I ensure implementation of my orders and continuously monitor the status of implementation so that the RTI applicants get the information sought for.

What are the prolems faced y Information Commission in the implementation of RTI Act?

>It is a good question. We are facing serious staff crunch. We hardly have six to seven persons, that too on temporary asis, to assist each Information Commissioner while in states like Maharashtra each Information Commissioner is provided with aout 25 office assistants.

Further, those working in Maharashtra are permanent employees. This would ensure accountaility esides improving the efficiency of the information commission. We can ensure speedy disposal of applications if we get adequate manpower.

First appellate authorities are not properly responding. Will the Information Commission recommend training for them?

Yes. As I said it is the responsiility of the government to see that the oject of the RTI Act is achieved y imparting proper training for the PIOs and the first appellate authorities y way of conducting awareness programmes. Further, the government should take action whenever Information Commission recommends something in connection with the PIOs or appellate authorities. Anyway, we keep writing to the government on the need for providing proper training for the PIOs and appellate authorities.

Is it not possile to introduce pulic private partnership (PPP) for the implementation of RTI Act?

It is a good idea to have pulic private partnership (PPP) model. ut care should e taken that only selfless NGOs are allowed to work with the Information Commission and other government departments in conducting awareness programmes. The awareness programmes could e conducted oth for the Pulic Information Officers and the general pulic as well.

What do you think is the reason the governments are not paying attention for effective implementation of RTI Act?

This is a question which should e answered y the government. Though the urden of effective implementation, creating awareness with respect to RTI lies with the government according to Section 26 of the Act, I suggest the government should entrust the responsiility to the Commission. The government should provide adequate udgetary assistance for the purpose along with infrastructure and manpower.

What could e the est use of RTI Act?

The Act should e used in pulic interest which should e genuine. However, due to lack of awareness, vague applications are made y many while some are resorting to misuse. Awareness is the need of the hour.

Do you ensure protection for applicants in case of threat to their lives?

Certainly we take steps to protect the RTI applicants. We write to the authorities concerned in some cases direct the police stations concerned to provide safety. Further, we warn the pulic information officers if they resort to any mischief against the applicants.

Do you think people should have judicial ackground to seek appointment as Information Commissioner?

It is good if people with judicial ackground ecome Information Commissioners. However, Section 15(3) of the RTI Act says that expert from any field can seek appointment as Information Commissioner.

Do you think common people are increasingly using the RTI Act?

I don?t think so ecause majority of the common people are still unaware of the RTI Act. For example, the governments are introducing welfare schemes for the downtrodden. ut the actual eneficieries are unaware of it though they can make use of the RTI Act to get complete information aout the schemes.

Some PIOs complain that RTI Act has ecome a tool to harass them. Do you agree with that?

That is not true. If the PIOs stick to rule ook and provide the information as per law, noody can harass them. Those who lack awareness only make such complaints.

Many government departments including Education Department are not disclosing the information on their wesites as stipulated in Section 4(1)() of the Act. What is the remedy for this?

True. Not only Section 4(1)() disclosure ut the PIOs are not following Section 4(1)(a) which stipulates that all the records must e streamlined and updated so that information could e provided to the applicants as quickly as possile. Aout 80 percent of the PIOs are not following the rules. The government should take it seriously and NGOs and civil society must play an active role in changing this situation.

Have you ever filed RTI application?

Yes. I have filed numer of applications efore I entered the Commission. Since all my applications were in pulic interest, I did get information in some instances government could recover the money mismanaged y certain corrupt officials.

What is your message for our readers?

Make use of RTI Act and seek information for pulic interest. Never ever misuse the provisions of the Act.