PESHAWAR: In a bid to enhance the public’s access to the government, the local government department on Wednesday decided to empower officers at the tehsil and the village council level as the point person to respond to public information requests.
To fulfil the criteria outlined under the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Right to Information Act 2013, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Local Government Department issued a notification giving the additional charge of public information officers (PIOs) to Tehsil Municipal Officers (TMOs) and secretaries of the village and neighbourhood councils.
Following the notification, the K-P Right to Information Commission noted that the number of PIOs in the province has sextupled from 529 to 3,011.
Citizens can now address their information requests, filed under the Right to Information Act 2013, to each respective Tehsil for any information regarding the working of the local government authorised under the law.
RTI Commission’s Chief Information Commissioner Azmat Hanif Aurakzai said that the purpose of designating these PIOs at the grassroots level was to alleviate the difficulties faced by citizens in obtaining information of public importance from the public bodies, especially from the village and neighbourhood councils.
Apart from providing public information to the citizen, the PIOs will also maintain a formal record of all information requests in a register which has been specially prepared and distributed amongst all the PIOs.
Orakzai further added that a handbook is being prepared for the guidance of newly appointed PIOs to efficiently dispose of the information requests of citizens. A series of training sessions will be organised at the district level by the information commission for systematic training of PIOs.
Highlighting just how interested the people were in the workings of the government, Orakzai pointed out that over the past three and a half years, over 10,500 citizens had filed RTI requests with public bodies across the province — except for in the seven districts of the Malakand Division where the RTI law has not been extended.
Out of these, around 7,000 information requests were answered by public bodies. However, around 4,000 citizens complained that they were not provided information by the public bodies.
Further, he said that the RTI Commission successfully disposed of 3,405 cases in accordance with the RTI ACT whereas the remaining are in the process of adjudication.
The Information Commission, with the help of the K-P Directorate of Information Technology, has also introduced an electronic form for the right to information system (E-RTI) for Peshawar, where citizens can email their RTI requests and complaints.
Moreover, people can call the information commission on the toll-free number 0800-57784 for general guidance about the RTI law and its usage. A plan has also been chalked out for creating awareness about the RTI law, especially in the remote districts and rural areas of
Published in The Express Tribune, January 4th, 2018.