Access to information blocked
7 months ago, 8 Dec 00:32
On November 15, the Supreme Court ordered the IEBC to provide parties in the Presidential Petition No 4 of 2017 with a certified copy of the voters' register and to allow petitioners access to all original copies of Forms 34A, B and C. In a response letter, the IEBC demanded the petitioners pay an exorbitant amount of Sh80 million for a copy of the register. This was in direct contradiction of the Access to Information Act, 2016. The Act gives citizens a right of access to information held by the state and obligates all public entities to only charge requesters a fee not exceeding the actual costs of making copies of the required information available. The law requires the Cabinet Secretary to make regulations on certain matters to guide implementation, including the cost of providing information. More than a year after the Act was passed, the Information, Communications and Technology CS is yet to make regulations to guide on implementation. The lack of regulations hampers access to information as in their absence, public entities can arbitrarily set exorbitant costs to provide information. This means that access is still at the discretion of the entity being requested for information, and not, as per the provisions of the Act. The demand by the IEBC went against the rationale and spirit of the ATI Act, which is that individuals should not be prevented from making requests for information by charging deterrent costs. Section 12 the ATI Act 2016 on costs states: (1) No fee may be levied in relation to the submission of an application. ( 2 ) A public entity or private body from which an application for access to information has been made may charge a prescribed fee for the provision of the information and the fee shall not exceed the actual costs of making copies of such information and if applicable, supplying them to the applicant. ( 3 ) Subject to subsection ( 2 ), the Cabinet Secretary shall make regulations prescribing the fees payable for expenses incurred in providing information to an applicant. Additionally, the lack of regulations further impedes access to information for citizens since public entities are not proactively disclosing information as per the law. The regulations are supposed to direct public entities on how to adopt a progressive realisation of Section 5 of the Act on proactive disclosure while keeping in mind Section 6 on limitations of right to access to information. Most public entities interpret the lack of regulations as meaning that the law is not yet operationalised. There are other disadvantages of not having regulations to accompany the access to information law. First, some unclarity about private and public entities will persist. Second, without guidelines, the limitations to access, such as on grounds like commercial interests and national security will be wrongly interpreted, denying citizens access to information. The Constitution lists transparency as one of the national values and principles of governance. All state organs, state officers and public officers are bound ...
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