People’s representatives are found reluctant to implement the right to information (RTI) Act, one of the major tools for promoting good governance and controlling corruption, a report shows.
According to a study report prepared in the space of around seven months by the Freedom Forum, a non-governmental organization long working for many causes including for freedom of expression and right to information in Nepal, local governments are yet to welcome the Act wholeheartedly.
Of the total 753 local levels, only 198 have implemented the right to information, said the report. The local levels that have put into action the right to information include Madhyapur Thimi Municipality, Ilam Municipality, Mahalaxmi Municipality (Lalitpur), Jugal Rural Municipality (Sindhupalchok), Kamalamai Municipality (Sindhuli), Kirtipur Municipality (Kathmandu), Panchkhal Municipality (Kavrepalanchok) and Shivaraj Municipality (Kapilvastu).
As defined by the RTI Act -2007, the “right to Information” means the right to ask for and obtain information of public importance held in the public bodies and this term shall also include the right to study or observation of any written document, material held in public body proceedings of such public body; to obtain a verified copy of such document, to visit or observe the place where any construction of public importance is going on and to obtain verified sample of any material or to obtain information held in any type of machine through such machine.
According to the report, Province 1 is in the forefront in terms of the implementation of the RTI. Out of 137 local levels in Province 1, 47 levels or 34.50 percent have provided information while the situation of the RTI implementation is the weakest in Province 2 as only nine levels, out of 136, have disseminated information.
The study shows that 46 levels, out of 119, in Province 3; 21 levels, out of 85, in Province 4; 28 levels, out of 109, in Province 5; 18 levels, out of 69 in Province 6 and 22 levels, out of 88, in Province 7 have implemented the RTI Act.
Freedom Forum executive director Taranath Dahal who has been long fighting for the RTI in Nepal said the implementation of the RTI Act would help to establish relations between the citizens and local government based on trust and constructive support, but the local levels, though not all, are yet to be committal and serious towards enforcing this Act recognised as the fundamental right of the citizens.
During the study, information was sought from local governments to make people and local representatives aware of National and international practices regarding the RTI, importance of RTI in the context of Nepal and its essentiality for development and good governance, but unwillingness to entertain the idea reflects the reluctance of local levels to promote good governance and transparency in office activities.
According to National Information Commission’s commissioner Kiran Pokhrel, 10 years has been passed since the RTI Act was brought into practice in Nepal and it is a matter of grave concern that public bodies are still indifferent towards its implementation. Such bodies shall be compelled to abide by the Act.
The Freedom Forum had, on August 21 last year, coinciding with the National Information Day, demanded 18 points information of the same nature from the local governments in all seven provinces. The RTI Act ensures the provision relating to appointment of an information officer at every local level.
Information about whether they have appointed an information officer, how proactive disclosure (without any request) of certain 20 types of information in every three months as guaranteed by the Act is taking place, whether they conduct public hearing as per the Good Governance Act-2006, whether the office has formulated any directives or polices and laws for the information management were sought from them.
Likewise,information was sought on various issues including whether the office has kept citizen’s charter, whether it has its official website, whether details of elected people’s representatives and employees have been collected.
Similarly, information was demanded about budget allocated for office construction, supplies and advertisement related to services in current fiscal year, about the policy and programme for advertisement, whether the office has policy to keep hoarding board at project site for transparency and whether the has formulated legal or policy-level structure to guarantee people’s participation in its activities.
A total of 103 countries of the world have so far brought the RTI Act into practice. Although Nepal’s Constitution-1990 had guaranteed the RTI as the fundamental right, the country had to wait for around two decades for the formulation of the RTI Act.
Though the Act related to the right to information was issued in 2007, it has not been fully implemented yet. So, Nepali society is still unknown about the importance of the right to information and its power.