September 30, 2016
SOCIETY for Democratic Initiatives (SDI) has commemorated the Universal Access to Information Day, joining hundreds of organizations around the world.
To mark the day, SDI published a report titled “The State of Access to Information Law Implementation in Sierra Leone 2016.
This Report commended the government for passing the Right to Access Information (RAI) law in 2013 and setting up the Right to Access Information Commission (RAIC).
However, discoveries from the Report showed that despite the significant milestone, there was a lack of political will to implement the human rights, transparency and good governance legislation.
The Report stated that the RAIC was deliberately starved of resources by Government to prevent it from carrying out its mandates and that the RAIC does not even have an office space after being evicted from their last two office spaces for its inability to pay rents.
Furthermore, the report stated that the refusal to promulgate a RAI Regulation has further affected the work of the commission and denied citizens their right to access information even though CSOs have provided a draft of the said regulation.
The SDI Report also lamented that Ministries, Departments and Agencies have no clue of the law and thus violating their obligations under the RAI Law with ferocious abandonment.
The situational analysis bemoaned the change in donor priorities, which has shifted to other issues that has affected the work of civil society and the RAIC struggling for resources. The report further revealed that civil society intensity was lacking since the passage of the law.
Additionally, the lack of a record management regime was identified as a reason for slow implementation and called on the Ministry to target the challenge.
The Report made several recommendations including calling on Government to specifically allocate budget for the RAIC, pass a Records Management Act, pass the RAI Regulation, Civil society to step up efforts in nationwide awareness and testing the law ,and International community to prioritize RAI implementation.
Society for Democratic Initiatives, Sierra Leone (SDI) is a national civil society organization working on transparency and accountability. SDI led the ten years civil society efforts for the promulgation of the Right to Access Information Law. SDI is chair of the Governing Council of The African Freedom of Information Council, a pan African network of freedom of information Advocates.