In a bid to help older adults and retired government servants, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Right to Information (RTI) Commission has directed government departments to share details of their retired employees in a monthly report.
No break for the old
In a statement issued by the RTI Commission on Monday, it said the commission took the step after it received an application of 80-year-old Muhammad Shareef. While speaking to The Express Tribune, RTI Commissioner Professor Kalimullah shared the story of Shareef who has yet to receive his pension. Shareef’s pension has been stuck in the district accounts office of DI Khan.
The commission held a meeting to discuss the application and observed it has been receiving applications of this sort time and again. It was then decided all government departments should make records of all retired employees public each month. They should also share the information on their website.
When asked about the powers the RTI Commission has to help pensioners in getting their pensions on time, Kalimullah said the commission has no authority to issue directives to departments about matters related to pensions. “However, under the RTI Act 2013, the commission has the power to ask all government departments to share information of those who are entitled to a pension on their websites,” he said.
“Shareef was suffering. He had checked and approached all possible forums where he could ask for help and receive his pension. However, nobody was able to help him out,” said Kalimullah.
He added it was only then when somebody informed Shareef about the RTI Commission that he submitted an application.
“We were unable to help him directly. But if every department shares information of their retired employees and provides the status of progress on pension cases, then it will bring transparency to the process,” Kalimullah told The Express Tribune. The step is aimed at ultimately helping people who have retired and are of older age groups. He also said under the act, the commission can give suggestions to help improve government service delivery. “Almost every person has problems in getting his or her pension and the aim of this move is to relieve the public,” he said.
The flip side
Contrary to the commissioner’s opinion, a senior official of the provincial government, requesting anonymity, said the commission should first ensure all government departments proactively display information on their websites as per Section 5 of the RTI law.
“Has every department displayed information about its employees, the department laws, by-laws, organogram and its decision-making process? If the answer is no, then the commission should first focus on its existing problems rather than asking departments to take additional steps.” The official was of the opinion the departments are not sharing information as required under Section 5. Section 5 lists categories of information the government bodies must make public via the internet or using any other means.
Centre for Governance and Public Accountability (CGPA) Programme Manager Malik Masood viewed the step of the commission as their official responsibility. “It is the commission’s responsibility to ask the departments for proactive disclosure of information,” said Masood. He believed the RTI law lacked a mechanism for what the commission should do when departments refuse to share information proactively. “The commission has no rules of business on how to deal with such issues,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 23rd, 2016.