Implementation of RTI Act challenging: CIC
UNB, Dhaka :
Terming the RTI Act a big milestone in Bangladesh's socio-economic context, Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) Prof Dr Golam Rahman has said the lack of culture among officials to provide information has stood in the way of reaping benefits from the law. In an interview with UNB, he lamented that some officers are not providing information as the culture of providing information is yet to properly develop here. "Some don't consider it as a citizen right. Instead, they consider it as a burden. It's a big impediment to implementing the act," he added.
Dr Golam Rahman also mentioned that the demand for information among people is very limited taking into consideration the country's 16 crore population. The Right to Information Act will truly empower people if public awareness is increased in this regard, he insisted.
Prof Rahman, who was appointed CIC on February 3 last, highlighted Information Commission's various activities, challenges and limitations it faces and its future plan.
He, however, said things will not change overnight. "We're living in a
traditional society where we have a colonial legacy to keep the information secret. It's a cultural problem," he said underscoring the need for comprehensive efforts in this regard.
The CIC sees the transfer of officers designated for providing information to people within six months as a barrier to the implementation of the law. "Officials who join new posting take time to settle themselves which hampers the activities and delays the process of providing information," he said.
Noting that information at government and non-government offices is preserved in the traditional way, Prof Golam Rahman stressed the importance of updating the system using technology. "If we can ensure this, people will get information easily. Even the self-disclosure of information by government offices will also be easier."
Prof Golam Rahman, however, claimed that people now can openly talk to the officials concerned to receive information which recognises people's right to get information. Noting that the Information Commission has assigned 24,000 officials in various offices across the country to provide information to people, the Mass Communication and Journalism teacher who taught at Dhaka University termed it as a big effort.
About the future plan to expedite the commission's activities, the CIC said they are planning to create a post of District Information Officer in every district to coordinate with the government offices and organise the activities of the commission.
Asked about the steps to publicise the law in a massive extent, he said they are conducting various programmes, including discussions, to create awareness in this regard. "We're doing our best as per our capacity."
Prof Golam Rahman also lamented the role of NGOs in implementing the law. "Although NGOs played a vital role in formulating the RTI Act, they themselves aren't providing information to people."
The demand for information could have been increased had the NGOs been more active, the CIC said, urging them to come forward to make people aware of the act.
Asked whether he thinks there is any limitation in the RTI Act-2009, he said there are RTI acts in some 113 countries across the globe. "But the standard of ours is very high among them."
About the information of foreign agencies, private companies and multinational firms, Golam Rahman he said the private companies are under the purview of the act.
The CIC thinks they need to expand the legal coverage in some areas such as private universities, schools and colleges "because people pursue their study there in exchange for money. Public interest is associated with it," he said, adding that they will also consider bringing multinational companies under the law.
He claimed that the commission is very strong and discharging its duties independently and there is no interference in its activities from any quarter.