Monitoring transparency: Govt websites yet to comply with RTI law, says report | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Pakistan Press Foundation

Monitoring transparency: Govt websites yet to comply with RTI law, says report

Pakistan Press Foundation

KARACHI: The Punjab government has made little progress in making its websites comply with its transparency and right to information law, a report by digital rights groups says.

It says that there have been only small improvements in this regard over July-December 2015 period.

The fourth biannual State of Proactive Disclosure of Information in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab Public Bodies report released on Thursday has been prepared jointly by the Coalition of Right to Information (CRI) and Digital Rights Foundation (DRF). As many as 19 websites of the Punjab government and 13 of the K-P government have been reviewed for the report.

These sites have been scored in 11 categories including information provided about respective departments, budgets, details of employees and their functions, and ease of access to the websites.

The report says that there have been small improvements (with most scores unchanged) in how the Punjab and KP government websites provide information to the public. It observes that there is “a general reluctance in complying with laws that pertain specifically to sharing information held by public bodies”.

It says that most Punjab government websites lack details about the procedure to request for information from the departments concerned. It says that only the Punjab Revenue Authority (PRA) and the Information Commission websites have details about the the public information officer of the department.

Though it shares details of the postal address where such requests can be made, the Information Commission website does not provide for online requests.

“With the exception of the Right to Information Commission, none of the KP websites provide a clear description of how requests for information may be made. This leaves the public clueless on where to go for the required information,” says DRF executive director Nighat Dad.

“When government websites do not explain how people can contact them to request information or what information can be obtained, they add to the confusion and create suspicion in the minds of the public,” she says. This state of affairs could be fixed by adding just a few web pages, she says.

It says that the Punjab Privatisation Board’s website, hacked over six months ago apparently by Bangladeshi hackers, has not been fixed.

It says that there has been no activity on the Zakat and Ushr Department’s website during the six-month period.

The report says that the budget details have not been uploaded on the Punjab government and the Higher Education Department websites.

It says that though most departments have shared information about their budgets, they have not disclosed details of actual spending.

The K-P government websites generally score better than the Punjab government’s, but have more broken links (including the button to download the right to information act) and changed web addresses. The K-P Investment Promotion Cell website is completely inaccessible.

The report concludes that there is a general misunderstanding about the concept of ‘web accessibility’. It notes that suggestions for plugging gaps provided in previous versions of the report have not been taken into account by the two governments.

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