Institute for Research, Advocacy, and Development’s Annual Report on Proactive Disclosure of Information Launched

ISLAMABAD: (September 25, 2020) The Institute for Research, Advocacy and Development (IRADA) has released its annual report on proactive disclosure of information titled: “Right to information laws and transparency: progressive legislation, reluctant governments” in connection with the International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI), observed every year on September 28.

The study is a three-dimensional (3-D) assessment comprising inter-province comparison (which territory is the most PDI compliant and transparent about voluntarily sharing information online), intra-province comparison (which common departments in provinces are best at sharing their information online) and inter-indicator comparison (which of the common indicators outlined in the four RTI laws are most shared proactively online by the provincial departments).

According to the study, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial government has achieved the best ranking and the federal government the worst ranking in terms of transparency and compliance with the mandatory proactive disclosure of information (PDI) clauses of Pakistan’s right to information (RTI) laws governing the federal and four provincial governments, according to a new study.

The study reveals that in the inter-governmental comparison of PDI, the KP government secured first position as the most transparent government in Pakistan with overall score of 67%, while Punjab government got second position with 47% collective score. Sindh and federal governments secured third and fourth positions respectively.

The study also reveals that among the Information Commissions (IC) charged with enforcement of the four respective RTI laws governing the federal and provincial governments of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Punjab and Sindh, the KP IC has secured first position by scoring 100% marks, followed by Punjab IC with 89% score and the federal IC third at 63% points. The Sindh IC could not be assessed for the PDI because it does not have a website yet.

The results do not include Balochistan because the province does not have second generation laws like the other governments and is still using an outmoded first generation “freedom of information” law rather than “right to information” law.

The study – a comparative analysis of how the provincial governments of KP, Punjab and Sindh and the federal government fare under the 19 indicators common to all the 4 different RTI laws governing these regions – throw up other interesting results. For the purposes of this study, the federal territory is treated as a ‘province’ since the federal RTI law is applicable only on Islamabad, not the provinces.

For instance, the intra-province comparison reveals that among the federal government ministries, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting is the best at proactively sharing mandatory information, scoring 53% marks while the Ministry of Interior is the worst among federal ministries with only 26% marks.

Among KP government departments, the Information Department has topped the others by achieving 89% marks while the Home and Tribal Affairs Department has come last with 47% marks.

Among Punjab government departments, the Information and Culture Department has secured the top position with 63% marks while the Communication and Works Department could get only 37% marks and came last.

Among Sindh government departments, the best could be done by the Finance Department by achieving 53% marks to attain the top position while the Information Department stood at the bottom with only 31% marks.

An inter-province comparison of public bodies revealed that the most compliant ones out of 24 public bodies assessed, the KP Information Department was best with 89%, the KP Law Department second at 74% and KP Planning and Development Department third with 68%. This means these three departments were the most transparent and best PDI compliant under any RTI law in Pakistan, beating both the federal government and all other provinces.

The least compliant public bodies in entire Pakistan included Federal Ministry of Interior with just 26% marks while the second worst was Sindh Information Department with only 32%.

In department-wise ranking, the information ministry/ departments collectively occupy the top slot among the most PDI compliant and transparent followed by law departments in second position and finance departments securing the overall third position. The departments of planning/development, communication/works and interior/home occupy the fourth, fifth and sixth positions respectively.

In the inter-indicator comparison, the least disclosed mandatory disclosure indicators by all the federal and provincial public bodies included description of decision-making processes, remuneration, perks and privileges and functions/ duties of staff. Budget/ expenditures and particulars about the recipients of grants, licenses and other benefits are also poorly disclosed indicators.

On the contrary, information related to organizational structure/ functions, staff directories, statutory rules, orders, notifications and relevant Act/ Ordinance are the types of mandatory information most proactively disclosed by the public bodies.

The federal RTI law entails PDI of 43 types of information (or simply indicators) while KP RTI law requires disclosure of 30 indicators. Sindh and Punjab provinces are required to proactively disclose 25 and 24 indicators respectively.

In all there are 19 indicators that are common to all the four RTI laws in Pakistan and the assessment of the status of implementation of PDI clauses by this study has been based on these 19 indicators.

Proactive disclosure is a distinctive feature of Pakistan’s second-generation RTI laws. These laws were enacted after addition of Article 19-A in the Constitution through Eighteenth Constitutional Amendment in 2010. These laws include: the Federal Right of Access to Information Act 2017; the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Right to Information Act 2013; the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act, 2013; and the Sindh Transparency and Right to Information Act, 2016.

These second-generation RTI laws require all public bodies, within their respective jurisdictions, to ‘proactively disclose information’ online on their websites. The laws require public bodies to ensure their online / digital presence by disclosing certain types of information on their websites.

However, the number and kinds of information, required to be proactively disclosed, vary in each law. Moreover, each of the laws provides a detailed list of public bodies and covers literally hundreds of public organizations within its respective jurisdiction. Each ‘public body’ as defined in the respective law, is required to proactively disclose legally required kinds of information on its website.

For example, Section 05 of the Federal Right of Access to Information Act 2017 requires all federal public bodies to ‘proactively disclose’ 43 types of information. Similarly, Section 05 of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Right to Information Act 2013 demands 30 types of information to be disclosed proactively by all provincial ‘public bodies’ in the province. Likewise, Section 06 of the Sindh Transparency and Right to Information Act, 2016 necessitates 25 types and Section 04 of the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act, 2013 mandates 24 types of information to be disclosed proactively by the public bodies in their respective provinces.

While the overall number of various types of information required by each of the sections varies, there are several clauses on proactive disclosure of information (PDI), which are common in the four laws. It is, therefore, feasible to compare the status of implementation of the common clauses within their respective jurisdictions.