“No information even after four months”
Riaz Khan, a mediaperson based in Peshawar, submitted an application four months ago, asking for the salaries, incentives for officials and funding for various projects of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Oil and Gas Company Limited (KPOGCL). He is yet to get the information.
“I submitted the application in August. After waiting for two months, I filed an application to the Information Commissioner,” says Riaz Khan. “The officials of the KPOGCL appeared before the Commissioner and argued that the required information was exempted from RTI. The Commissioner, however, told the officials that the required information was not exempted and directed to provide it immediately.”
“I am yet to get the information. The Commissioner has issued notice to the department. Let’s see how they respond to it,” he adds.
Khan submitted another application to the Finance Department of the KP government on November 11 to know about the projects under the Annual Development Programme and Chief Minister’s Special Initiative in Mardan, Charsadda, Nowshera, Swabi and Dera Ismail Khan since 2013. “The application was returned to me after a few days because I had not attached with it a copy of my CNIC. I resubmitted the application with the required documents on November 20 and now am waiting for it. The department is required to provide the information within 15 days under the RTI Act,” he says.
“Information provided within ten days”
The Center for Governance and Public Accountability (CGPA), a Peshawar-based organisation, submitted 123 applications under the RTI to different provincial government departments and 17 districts all over the province. The information the organisation required was mostly related to the office of the deputy commissioners, district police officers, district health officers and district education officers.
“We have submitted 123 requests under the RTI to 17 district administrations and five departments of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government during the last few months,” informs Masood Malik, Programme Manager CGPA.
“Out of all the submitted 123 applications, we were provided information on 26 applications by the concerned departments within ten working days. These applications were mainly on budget, allocation of funds and information for the welfare of the public,” Malik adds.
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The CGPA received the required information within 20 working days on 31 occasions. Similarly, on 12 occasions the information was provided after 20 days.
“We have submitted 54 complaints with the RTI Commissioner during the last many months in cases where we were not given the required information by the concerned departments,” informs Malik.
Under the RTI Act, a fine may be imposed on a department if it fails to provide the information in prescribed time.
“We have trained the local communities in Mardan and other districts on the RTI so they can get information about the projects being carried out in their areas. The local community recently submitted an application to know about the funds being allocated for 30 tubewells in the Mardan district,” says Anwar Khan, executive director of the CGPA.
“Law is implemented”
The Executive District Officer (EDO) Education Vehari was penalised for denying information requested by an applicant, says Syed Raza Ali Shah, Senior Programme Officer at CPDI. “A teacher, Arif Noor of Government Islamia High School, Vehari had requested for seniority list of teachers and a copy of inquiry report against him under the RTI law but the EDO did not respond.
“Noor attended a training session conducted by CPDI in 2014 and was guided by the organisation on how to use RTI laws for his benefit. He was concerned about his promotion and losing out to other aspirants so he requested for the seniority list,” Shah informs. The EDO initiated an inquiry against him and did not provide the seniority list. Instead, he initiated an inquiry against Noor perhaps to punish him for questioning him, he adds.
Noor approached CPDI for help. “We helped him pursue his case and take the complaint to the Punjab Information Commission formed under the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act 2013.” The court issued repeated orders but the EDO remained defiant and did not provide the required the information.
“So, the commission issued orders to deduct two months’ salary of the EDO and ordered the concerned department to take action against him. The EDO had to face an inquiry and was transferred from the district as well. The applicant received the required information.”
But unfortunately, he says, “the commission is dormant because all three information commissioners have retired after completion of their three-year tenure and new ones are yet to be appointed.”