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SDI trains Local Councils on FOI Act

January 25, 2016 By Hassan Gbassay Koroma

SDI Executive Director, Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai

The Society for Democratic Initiatives (SDI) yesterday trained Local Council officers from across the country on the implementation of the Right to Access Information Act 2013.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the workshop at Santano House in Freetown, SDI Executive Director Emanuel Saffa Abdulai said his organisation had played a significant role in the passage of the Right to Access Information law.

He said they had worked with the Freedom of Information Coalition to ensure that the Act was not only passed into law but fully implemented.

He said the training aims at relating the Right to Access Information Act 2013 with the Local Government Act of 2004, for infective implementation of the former.

Aminata Kelly-Lamin, Governance Adviser at Action Aid Sierra Leone, said her organisation supports national understanding and knowledge enhancement on the Right to Access Information, adding that they had supported civil Society participation in the legislative process as well as capacity building for media education and awareness rising through various methods.

She said the Right to Access Information Act was universally recognised as the cornerstone of  good governance and an important anti-corruption tool, adding that almost 100 countries, including eleven in Africa, have national laws or decrees that recognise public right to access information.

Sierra Leone enacted the Right to Access Information law on 29 October 2013, the twelfth such African county. The Act empowers everyone to request official information held by public bodies, although there are exemptions, such as defence and intelligence documents.

Programme Coordinator at the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), Nancy Sesay, said her organisation supports and stands for principals that create open societies, adding that their mission was to enable open societies and enhance inclusive democratic governance that is based on transparent and accountable institution and a vibrant citizenry.

She maintained they could not achieve their mission without promoting access to freedom of information in West Africa as they strongly believe that access to information and freedom of information are two of the most fundamental values in a democratic system.

Ms Sesay said OSIWA had given her support for successful advocacy efforts for the enactment and implementation of Freedom of Information (FOI) laws across the sub-region, identifying Guinea, Liberia, Niger and Nigeria as countries they had given support to for the passage of access to information laws and its implementation.

She added that in Sierra Leone they also supported the FOI coalition, led by SDI, to advocate for the enactment of access to information law.

Delivering the keynote address, Right to Access Information Commissioner, Unisa Sesay, paid special tribute to the SDI for organising the training workshop and said his commission was working assiduously towards ensuring that citizens have access to the Act across the country.

He commended SDI for their relentless effort to advocate for the passage of the FOI bill into law, and pledged that the commission would continue working with the group.

He revealed the commission would be conducting public awareness raising on the Act, targeting the nook and cranny of the country.

“When someone requests for an information from any government office that information should be given to that person within 15 days, failing to do so, the person shall apply to the commission and wait for another 15 days for the commission to get back to the person concerning his application,” he said.

He added that the commission has powers to impose fines on individuals who are not compliant with the Act.

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