Despite some improvements, government departments in the Punjab and Khyber Pakhunkhwa (K-P) had by and large failed to abide by their own respective right to information laws, a report by digital rights group revealed.
The report “State of Proactive Disclosure of Information in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab Public Bodies,” compared 19 government websites of Punjab and 13 from K-P, scoring them for key aspects such as information provided about respective departments, its budget, details of employees and their functions, ease of access of websites, among 11 categories.
It said that sections 4 and 5 of the K-P Right to Information Act and the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act 2013, had bound the respective provincial governments to share complete information about particulars of the public body, its functions, officers and employees and relevant laws.
“Almost all of departments surveyed failed to provide any such information about particulars of the recipients of concessions, permits or authorisation granted by the public bodies,” the report said, that is prepared jointly by Coalition of Right to Information (CRTI) and Digital Rights Foundation.
The report said that absence of such information from the Punjab website speaks about the unwillingness of the government department in Punjab to be transparent and accountable to its citizens.
The report, however, appreciated efforts made to promulgate RTI laws in line with international standards and said that citizens would benefit from it – if and when the respective provincial commissions play their due role in implementation of those laws.
Though provincial departments have begun to share information regarding provincial budgets, they have failed to provide details regarding proposed expenditure goals and the actual expenditure incurred along with complete duty and power functions of the officers.
The websites of the Punjab information department and information commission lacked any information regarding remunerations, salaries, benefits, and any other such payments departments provide to employed staff or beneficiaries. Punjab did not even upload its annual provincial budget.
The report said that K-P provincial departments have begun sharing information concerning public information officers under provincial RTI laws, though much work still needed to be done with some departments under survey.
For example, while the K-P investment promotion cell gave a good account of what the department was but scored poorly for providing information regarding its officers, their duties, powers, budget of the department or relevant laws. In contrast the province’s finance department site did better in this respect, but had a low score on ease of access.
For Punjab though, its finance department had an average scoring site, but it suffered with its revenue, taxation and privatization department websites with the latter the worst.
The K-P IT board’s website too was devoid of any such information besides scoring poorly for ease of access. By comparison the Punjab IT board site scored well in providing adequate information and ease of access.
With its much touted online FIR model, K-P had a well scoring site for police.
The report said that during the first half of 2015 loopholes in both the site maintenance and the lack of useful content on websites had been pointed out. However, some departments were reluctant to update their sites properly.
There was also some websites of both the provinces that have been redesigned since the last quarterly report of 2014 was published. “The redesigned websites have a better loading time with better user interface presenting the information to the public in a more convenient way,” it said.
However, ease of access on average scored low for both K-P and Punjab, but with the latter edging the former.
While the report appreciate efforts undertaken by the elected governments in both provinces for enacting right to information laws, it was disappointing to see unwillingness of public departments to comply with those same regulations.