The Right to Information Commission

What is the Right to Information Commission?

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The Right to Information Commission is established by the Act to ensure effective implementation of the Act. The Commission is a corporate entity which has legal personality. Therefore, it can sue and be sued.

Is the Commission independent?

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YES. It is an independent Commission. Three of its members are named by nominations from the editors, publishers and media groups, from the Bar Association and from civil society groups sent to the Constitutional Council (CC). Two remaining members are selected by the CC from a public application process.

How does the Commission establish its transparency?

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The Commission will prepare and publish a report of all its activities at least once a year to ensure transparency. One copy of the report will be forwarded to the Parliament to be tabled for debate and another copy sent to the President. Two (02) weeks after the report is tabled in Parliament the Commission must keep a copy of the report at its office for the public to access it. Whenever possible, the Commission must publish a copy of the report on its website.

What are the duties and functions of the Commission?

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The Commission will;

(a)  monitor the performance and ensure Public Authorities duly discharge their duties;

(b)  make recommendations for reform;

(c)  issue guidelines based on reasonableness, to guide Public Authorities in setting fees under the Act;

(d)  prescribe the circumstances in which an Information Officer can provide information without charging a fee;

(e)  prescribe the fee Schedule;

(f)  undertake training activities for public officials on the effective implementation of the Act;

(g)  publicize the requirements and the rights of individuals under the Act; and

(h)  issue guidelines for Public Authorities for the proper management of records.

What powers does the Commission have?

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The Commission has the powers;

(a)  to hold inquiries and require any person to appear before the Commission;

(b)  to question persons called before the Commission and request them to  produce information they possess. If the information required is exempted from disclosure under the Act, then the Commission should examine such information in confidence;

(c)  to inspect any information held by a Public Authority;

(d)  to direct a Public Authority to provide information in a particular form;

(e)  to direct a Public Authority to publish any information withheld by it;

(f)  to hear and decide appeals; and

(g)  to direct a Public Authority to reimburse fees charged from a citizen if the information was not provided in time.

The Commission has also the important power to directly prosecute offenders before the Magistrate’s Court.

How is the Commission financed?

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The Commission has its own fund. The fund consists of any money the Commission is allocated by Parliament and donations, gifts or grants received by the Commission. When the Commission receives funds as gifts, donations or grants, the Commission is obligated to publicize the source of such funds and the purpose for which funds were given to the Commission. All expenses of the Commission will be paid out of this fund.

Will the finances of the Commission be audited?

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YES. The income and expenditure of the Commission are subject to financial audits. The financial year of the Commission will be from January to December in any year. The Commission has to ensure proper accounts are maintained reflecting all income and expenditure of the Commission.

The audit of the accounts of the Commission will be carried out in terms of the provisions of Article 154 of the Constitution which relates to the audit of the accounts of public corporations. Financial control and accounts of the Commission are subject to the provisions of the Finance Act, No. 38 of 1971 with relevant changes.