Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Gov’t criticised over its handling of information

Government agencies have joined the chorus of the media about the enactment of Access to Information Act.
Organisations such as the Botswana Institute of Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA), Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) and Ombudsman have raised concerns that the information they have is not sufficient or not available for them to use.

Some have hinted that they never know if the information is available and whether or it is confidential.

The Ombudsman, Ofentse Lepodise, told Sunday Standard that at the moment there is no law that compels civil servants to give out information.

“The Information Act will provide for provision of information or enforcement of public access to none confidential public information that is in the hands or possession or custody of government officials,” he said.

At a media briefing on Friday, Tshepho Sayed, of PPDAB, said they were not aware of projects that are coming in the near future. He said they are not even aware of how the money has been allocated to them by their ministry.
Sayed also mentioned that lack of information makes them look incompetent in the field they know best.

To date, the information is at the discretion of the principal officer who decides whether the information is passed on or not. This acts as barriers to those who find information to be important to their work or research.

Jonathan Mayukuka Kaunda, from BIDPA, mentioned that they have no right to information but he went on to mention that he is not saying the information is not given. Mr. Kaunda agreed that this should be codified into a law as it will then compel the civil servants to provide the necessary information in time.

Dr. Jeff Ramsay also said they still used the old system where a Member of Parliament asks a question and the relevant minister would respond in the truth. In the case where the minister was not sure or did not have the information at hand, such minister would go and research and bring a relevant answer.

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