Procedure to obtain Information

What is the procedure?

+

• Make a written request to the relevant Information Officer informing him/her of the specifics of the information needed.

• If you are unable to write your request, the Information Officer must assist you to make an oral request and write it down on your behalf.

• If you wish to make a request to a Public Authority to obtain information, or you have already made a request which is not in the approved format, the Information Officer must assist you, without charging a fee, to make the request in the approved format.

• When an Information Officer receives a request, he/she should issue an acknowledgement stating that he/she has received the request.

• If an Information Officer can provide a response to you, and you are satisfied with the response, the Information Officer must keep a record of the request and the response.

Information on a new project

+

• The Minister in charge of the subject under which the project is implemented (i.e. a project valued at over US$1 Million in the case of a foreign funded project and Rs.500,000/= in the case of a locally funded project)25 , has a duty to inform the general public as well as persons who are directly affected by the project three (03) months before the project begins, of the fact that the project will commence. All information in the possession of the Minister regarding the project must be made available to the public.

• If it is an urgent project, the information can be made available one (01) week prior to the beginning of the project but the reasons for such urgency will have to be communicated to the Commission.

• If you make a written request to the Minister during any phase of the project, the Minister has a duty to provide updated information to you, for a fee.

Prescribed procedure for information provided by third parties

+

• If you request confidential information which involves a third party, the Information Officer has to inform the third party in writing of the request within one week.

• The third party to whom the information is submitted then has to, within a week of being notified, either consent to disclosing such information or refuse disclosure with reasons.

• The Information Officer has to consider the response of the third party in making his decision.

• If the third party does not respond to the notice of request or consents to the disclosure, the Information Officer can disclose the information requested.

• If the third party does respond refusing disclosure, then the Information Officer has to refuse the requested information.

• However, even if the third party has refused to disclose the information, if you can prove that the disclosure is more important in the public interest than the private interests of the third party, then the Information Officer has to release the requested information.

Fees

+

• The fees payable for information will be decided by the Commission.

• Every Public Authority has a duty to prominently display within their premises the fees to be charged.

Can the public have access to past records of an indefinite period from a Public Authority?

+

NO. A Public Authority only has to maintain records which it had before 4th August 2016, 33 for a period of 10 years.

For any new records i.e. records that are made after 04th August 2016, a Public Authority only has to maintain such records for a period of 12 years from the date of making the record.
But, even after 10 or 12 years, the Public Authority cannot destroy its records if there is a ‘request for information’, an appeal, or a case in court pending regarding such records.

What should the ‘request for information’ contain?

+

• The request for information ought to be in writing but could be made even electronically. i.e. fax or e-mail. It should contain all information necessary for the Information Officer to identify the specific information requested. It should also include the nature and language of access. However, you do not have to give any other personal details to the Information Officer except contact details of yourself.

Eg: If you need the electronic format of the expenditure reports of Ministry X for the years 2014 and 2015 in English you should mention in the request that you need the requested reports in English and in electronic format.

• If the information requested is of vital importance to save the life of a person or it affects the personal liberty of a person, you should mention such fact in the request.

How soon can a decision be known?

+

• An Information Officer should inform you of his/her decision on whether the request is granted or not as soon as possible, at the latest within fourteen (14) working days of receiving the request. When a request is granted, access to the information will be given within fourteen (14) days.

• If the requested information concerns a citizen’s40 life and/or personal liberty, the response will be given within forty eight (48) hours.

Can the period for allowing access to information be extended?

+

YES. If access to information is allowed, the requirement to allow access within fourteen (14) days of the decision can be extended to a period of up to twenty one (21) days if the request is for a large number of records which would be administratively difficult to produce within 14 days. An extension could also be given if it is necessary to search for or collect the records from an office which is not located close by and therefore it is difficult to retrieve those within 14 days.

• If the period for providing information has to be extended, the Information Officer has to inform you of the reasons for the extension and the duration of the extension, within 14 days.

• You can lodge an appeal with the Designated Officer if you are not satisfied with the reasons for the extension.

How will information be provided to you?

+

• Information will be granted in the form it was requested for. However, if it would damage the document or record, an Information Officer can refuse to provide the information in the form requested. If the Information Officer is unable to provide the information in the requested form, he/she should assist you to explore alternative means of accessing information.

Example: If you requested for a photocopy of the original 1815 Kandyan Convention which is housed in the National Archives, the Information Officer of the National Archives could refuse to do so as photocopying might damage the centuries-old document. The Information Officer may provide an alternative means of obtaining the information such as allowing you to photograph the document.

• When you are permitted access to information, you have the right to inspect relevant information; take notes, extracts or certified copies of documents or records; take certified samples of material; obtain information in the form of digital media or other electronic mode or through printouts.

You can even ask for a sample of the material i.e. a sample of the asphalt used for an ongoing road repair in your neighbourhood, to check whether it is up to acceptable safety and quality standards.

Can you request a Public Authority to provide reasons for its decisions?

+

YES. In general, any person affected by the decision of a Public Authority can request for reasons for the decision. The reasons must be given in writing.

Can you know the reasons for refusing a request for information?

+

YES. In specific instances, when an Information Officer refuses a request for information, the officer has to inform the requester of;

• the grounds on which the request was refused,

• the period within which an appeal against the refusal ought to be submitted, and

• the person to whom such appeal should be submitted.

 

APPLICATION PROCESS

STEP 1

Identify the information you need and the Public Authority holding the information

 STEP 2

Complete and submit the application to the Public Authority along with the prescribed fee

STEP 3

Information Officer has to accept or reject your application within 14 days. If it involves the life or liberty of a person, the decision will be made within 48 hours

IF ACCEPTED

• Will allow access to  information within 14 days

• If the information is difficult to  access, will extend the period to allow access upto 21 days.

In this case, the Information  Officer has to inform you in   writing of;

•  The duration of extension  and

• The reasons for the  extension

IF REJECTED

The Information Officer has to  inform you of;

• The grounds on which the request was refused,

• The period within which an appeal against the refusal  ought to be submitted, and

• The person to whom such appeal should be submitted

APPEAL