KARACHI: Speakers at a consultative workshop held on Monday at a local hotel regretted the government’s lack of interest in implementing the Sindh Transparency and Right to Information Act 2016 and pointed out that despite the passage of almost 21 months, very few public bodies/departments had nominated a designated officer to provide information as per the law.

Titled ‘Improving public service delivery through RTI’, the workshop was organised by Shehri-Citizens for a Better Environment with the support of Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF).

The participants were public servants from different government depa­rtments.

Welcoming the participants, Amber Alibhai, general secretary of Shehri, introduced the aims and objectives of the workshop.

The laws pertaining to the right to information, according to her, not only require public bodies to provide information upon request, but Section 6(1) of The Sindh Transparency and Right to Information Act, 2016, binds the public bodies to proactively disclose and publish information about an organisation’s functions and duties.

She referred to a 2018 study titled The State of Online Proactive Discl­osure of Information in Provincial Departments of Sin­dh which, she said, found compliance of various departments with Section 6 of the Sindh RTI law to be very low.

Mohammad Anwar, head of programmes and administration at FNF, gave a brief presentation on his organisation and its partners.

Sikandar Ali Huliyo, Commissioner Sindh Information Commi­ssion, said that the commission would be effective “in [a] few weeks”.

“The government has allocated a budget of Rs55 million and established an office whereas hiring of staff is in the process,” he informed the audience.

If any citizen didn’t get any response from a department, he or she could file an appeal with the Sindh Information Commission for redressal, he added.

Advocate Mohammad Tariq Mansoor talked about some cases in which the superior courts had stressed the importance of right to information.

“It’s the constitutional right of every citizen to get information from any government department in all matters of public importance subject to regulation and reasonable restrictions imposed by law,” he said.

Sameer Hamid Dodhy, member Shehri, gave a detailed presentation on the Right to Information Act and explained its applicability in terms of how information could be shared and what kind of information was exempted from disclosure.

“As per Section 8(1) of The Sindh Transparency and Right to Information Act 2016, any applicant may make an application for obtaining information from any public body of Sindh government,” he noted.

Referring to Section 8(3) of this act, he said the designated official had to respond within 15 working days, regretting that despite the passage of almost 21 months, few public bodies/departments had nominated a ‘designated officer’ to provide information as per law.

He also pointed out that the Sindh Information Comm­ission was only established after advocate Moha­mmad Tariq Mansoor filed a constitutional petition (D-6447) in 2017 in the Sindh High Court.

Salika Enver, member Shehri, presented the vote of thanks and expressed the hope that the event might have helped participants improve their understanding of the law.

Published in Dawn, February 5th, 2019