Government departments are reluctant to respond to RTI requests.
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In a research conducted by the Sustainable Social Development Organization, “The Efficiency and Implementation of Right to Information Law in the province of Punjab”, observed that government departments are quite reluctant to administer RTI requests.
These requests come under the ambit of the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act, passed in 2013. To assess the effectiveness of the RTI procedure itself, SSDO sent multiple requests to various provincial government departments including administration, health, education, law, etc. Out of the 194 requests lodged by the SSDO as part of their study, only 36 requests received a response.
These requests catered to budgetary allocations and departmental expenditure for the last fiscal year. In order to assess the effectiveness of RTI requests, SSDO, further investigated the 36 responses. It took 14 days for 20 responses, which is the standard protocol for RTI requests. The remaining responses came in upon filing a complaint with the Punjab Information Commission (PIC). The report further states that with a low overall response rate, there were certain districts, which did not respond at all including Sargodha, Faisalabad, Mianwali, etc.
SSDO findings depict an overall response rate of less than 20 percent, which appears to be below par. As reported by The News earlier, Syed Kausar Abbas, Executive Director SSDO reiterated the fact that having a comprehensive RTI law was a step in the right direction. However, it requires effective implementation, which is only possible through a strengthened Information Commission. It is the prerogative of the Punjab Information Commission to undertake due measures in case of delayed or no response by the government departments, Abbas added.
Abbas was of the view that until and unless, PIC exercises penalties and reprimands relevant information officers, government departments will not take the information commission seriously.