The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Right to Information Act 2013 was passed by the provincial legislature with the objective to ensure the access of citizens to information in government departments and thus create a transparent and corruption free environment conducive for the growth of democracy i-e. Government of the people by the people and for the people. The basic purpose of the Right to Information Act is to empower the citizens, promote transparency and accountability in the working of the Government, “Every citizen shall have to right to access information in all matters of public importance subject to regulations and reasonable restrictions imposed by the law.”
In response to its successful application, the K-P RTI Ordinance was even listed as the third most effective law in the RTI global ranking, scoring 137/150 points. K-P is near the front of the global movement towards RTI, following their constitutional obligations. It is very encouraging that the draft version of the federal RTI bill has achieved top ranking in the world, with 146/150 points.
The role of Public Information Officers (PIO) designated by each public body under the K-P RTI laws is central to the implementation of these laws. As PIOs are the first point of contact between citizens and public bodies the government and public bodies should facilitate PIOs in the proactive disclosure of information as much as possible. This suggests a need for significantly reforming and modernizing mechanisms of traditional record-keeping by public bodies. As public records are digitized, public bodies will be able to provide information in a timely fashion. Furthermore, PIOs should be empowered to share information upon request as required by RTI laws. The current bureaucratic structure compels PIOs to seek permission from the heads of public bodies, the secretaries, before disclosing information. PIOs should not be bound by such restrictions and any departmental rule, which binds them, should be amended. The number of information requests under RTI laws is expected to increase manifold as citizens become aware of these laws. Thus, the most important aspect of K-P RTI laws is proactive disclosure. Public bodies should disclose as much information as possible proactively, using digital means. This will greatly reduce the number of information requests and limit the burden on PIOs to respond to such requests. The sooner the public bodies digitize public records, the better.