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RAIC refutes government control of information

September 15, 2016 By Mohamed Massaquoi

Information reaching this medium has revealed that government ministries, departments and agencies have been strictly warned by certain state authorities not to disclose sensitive government information to members of the public, but the Information Officer at Right to Access Information Commission (RAIC) has denied the claim.

Our sources state that most government officials have not been fully cooperating with the RAIC on the grounds that the Official State Secrecy Act is still law, thus restricting the free flow of information.

But RAIC Information Officer, Ibrahim Siraju Bah, told Concord Times that the Access to Information Act gives them the authority to seek information from government institutions and that the commission was always ready to implement the law in accordance with the Act.

“These institutions are guided by law to give us information as long as it is not classified. I am not aware of any secret document that is in circulation, asking government officials not to give out information. In fact, only recently the youths of Port Loko demanded information from the Port Loko District Council. They wrote an official letter to us and at the end of the day the council gave out the information” said Bah.

He added that a good number of government institutions were providing information to the commission whenever they are requested to do so, and that they were putting strategies in place to train more information officers.

The RAI Act 2013 provides for the general public to access data held by public officials.

The law gives citizens the power to request for information held by government ministries, agencies and department either for free or at minimal cost.

The law also imposes a duty on government to provide mechanisms for the public to request and obtain information from government ministries, department and agencies, and to publish information and promote openness as a fundamental value of public service.

However, since the enactment of the RAI Commission, followed by the subsequent appointment of commissioners, government has not ensured the full operationalisation of the institution, especially in the provinces where access to public information is still a challenge.

During the launch of the Open Data Readiness Assessment few months ago, Chairman of the Commission Unisa Sesay said the role of the Commission was significant to deepening democracy in the country, adding that their mandate was to enhance openness of data held by public authorities in order to ensure transparency and accountability.

Only recently, the Ministry of Information and Communications took control over the Open Data Portal from the RAIC without any public statement.

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