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SAHIWAL: The Punjab Information Commission (PIC), Lahore, has directed the local authorities of the Punjab Rural Support Program (PRSP) to provide information about one of its BHUs to a citizen by April 17.

The Commission also warns that in case of non-compliance, penalties would be awarded under Section 15 or 16 of The Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act 2013.

It asked the public information officer, District Health Authority to establish a mechanism to decide all pending cases within the time-frame prescribed in Section 10 of the law.

Faisal Arshad, a resident of Farid Town, wrote to the health authority to furnish him with information about the BHU of 128/9-L. As a citizen, he said, he wanted information about the number of sanctioned posts, appointed staff and detail of vacant posts, names and telephone numbers of appointed staff, detail of development and non-development budget, medicines purchased along with photocopy of stock book of last two financial years (2015-16, 2016-17).

The information demand was filed on Feb 16 to PIO Ahmed Hasan who responded that as the Punjab government had awarded BHUs service delivery management to the PRSP in many districts, he wrote a letter (No 2723, dated February 22) to local district support manager to provide information to a citizen.

The PRSP wrote back to the authority in letter No DSM-SWL-CMI-PHC3225 of March 9 that “PRSP is a private limited company and does not fall under definition of public body...”.

Furqan Siddiqui, DSM, PRSP, told Dawn that the letter was written on the advice of the central office of the Project Support Unit, Lahore.

Mr Arshad said this claim of the PRSP was not valid because it comes under definition of “Public Body” under Section 2 (H), I & VII, PT&RTI Act-2013.

While taking complainant’s argument as valid, the DHA wrote back to the PRSP and argued that it comes under the definition of public body and that it should provide information within 14 days.

Mr Arshad said on non-compliance of advice he filed a complaint to the PIC. Mukhtar Ahmed Ali, Information Commissioner, in a letter of April 5, directed both DHA and PRSP to provide information under Section 10 (7) of the Act to the citizen by April 17. “It is legal right of citizen and any delay beyond prescribed time can result in penalties in accordance with Section 15 or 16 of the Act,” the letter said.

Published in Dawn, April 9th, 2017