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Nepal's RTI Implementation Weak: Report

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A report by the World Bank says Nepal's implementation of the right to information law "has so far been weak."

The implementation of the right to information law in Nepal "has so far been weak," according to a new report from the World Bank.

Public bodies "have done little to meet their extensive obligations under the law," the 37-page report says, continuing, "... many have not even appointed dedicated information officers and most of the information subject to proactive disclosure under the law remains unpublished."

The number of requests from both civil society groups and the general public "has been low and there has been little pressure on public bodies to be more open," the report also concludes.

The National Information Commission (NIC), formed in 2008 to implement the 2007 law, "has until recently been under-staffed and under‐resourced although that is starting to change," the report says, noting the political issues that have led to a caretaker government since last June.

"Another challenge is that the law classifies most NGOs as public bodies, which is likely par of the reason this sector, often a key driver for RTI, has done so little to implement it in Nepal,"according to the report, dated January 2011.

A World Bank team went to Nepal in July 2010 and again in January 2011, when it made its recommendations to the government and stakeholders.

The report was prepared by consultant Toby Mendel, director of the Centre for Law and Democracy, with inputs from Rajib Upadhya (Senior External Affairs Officer, the World Bank, Kathmandu), and Vikram K. Chand (Senior Public Sector Management Specialist, the World Bank, New Delhi).

The report comes as Freedom Forum-Nepal is organizing a national convention on right to information for March 28 and 29 in an effort to enable environment for the effective practices of RTI.

Recommendations

The recommendations are:

• Appoint a senior nodal agency in the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers (OPMCM) to provide central leadership and resources on RTI implementation, in particular in the areas of proactive disclosure, processing of requests, record management, model transparency pilotprojects and enforcement of NIC decisions.

• Provide dedicated training on an urgent basis to information officers (IOs) through the Nepal Administrative Staff College, with training for all officials to be provided in due course.

• Introduce RTI into the school curriculum for students of 13‐16 years.

• Have the Ministry of General Administration recognise a special career track for IOs, along with a bonus system and the necessary physical infrastructure.

• Provide a central web portal to support RTI including by facilitating proactive disclosure and, in due course, by receiving requests.

•• Undertake a programme of public awareness raising about RTI.
•• Adopt new regulations to, among other things, enhance the independence of the NIC, promote better record management, and enhance reporting on implementation by public bodies.
Parliament

• Identify a committee to oversee implementation of the RTI Act.

Public Bodies

• Provide annual reports on what they have done to implement their obligations under the RTI Act.

Civil Society

• Undertake programmes to build demand for information.

• Undertake public awareness raising programmes, including through the media.

The International Community

• Support a baseline survey on demand for information.

• Host an international conference to discuss ways forward in terms of implementing the RTI Act.

NIC

• Meet its own openness obligations under the RTI Act, including by appointing an IO, undertaking proactive publication and putting in place procedures for processing requests.

• Meet its other obligations by adopting a Code of Conduct for Commissioners and procedures for handling appeals, and by continuing to produce annual reports.

• Enhance its operations by adopting guidelines on mediation and imposing sanctions, by producing a report on secrecy provisions in other laws, by reviewing the classification guidelines adopted by government, and by developing more formal relations with other entities promoting implementation, such as Parliament and the nodal agency.

• Build the capacity of its staff, including its legal officer, through training and providing incentives for good performance.

• Promote better implementation by public bodies through developing guidelines on exceptions and a guidance note for NGOs, and by monitoring and reporting on implementation.

• Raise public demand for RTI through the media, brochures, a documentary, International Right to Know Day activities and training for NGOs.

• Pilot a programme of RTI Friends at about ten different public bodies, to create and publicise model implementation practices.

Source: freedominfo.org

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