Unveiling the website of the Commission (www.rticommission.lk) and its logo on Monday (19), the RTI Commission of Sri Lanka invited public feedback on Draft Guidances on Pro-active Disclosure applicable to all ministries under the globally-acclaimed RTI Act No.12 of 2016.
The Commission’s logo, as unveiled, consists of Sri Lanka centered in the black pupil of an eye commonly symbolizing information, held aloft by a hand.
Pro-active disclosure duties refer to information that must be released by Ministers in advance of the initiation of projects. Information must also in general, be released in regard to the functioning of ministries. These relate to procurement processes and disbursements under budgets in regard to both local and foreign expenses. The duties arise automatically in terms of the law and do not depend on a citizen filing an information request against a particular Public Authority.
The Commission has announced on its website that it hopes to hold consultations with Public Authorities and citizens with a view to finalizing the Guidances.
Meanwhile, information available on the Commission website disclosed that the Road Development Authority (RDA) and the Panadura Urban Council were among several Public Authorities summoned by the Commission during the hearing of its first appeals. The Commission is the primary appellate body under the Act. It is mandated to ensure that state, corporate and non-governmental perform in compliance with the law. Failure can result in the prosecution of offenders by the Commission, which is a power not in the hands of other similar bodies, excluding the Bribery and Corruption Commission.
"Several other matters have also been listed for hearing. Among these are two RTI appeals filed by a non-governmental organization Transparency International, Sri Lanka, regarding the assets declarations of the President and the Prime Minister"
In several instances, the information released on the orders of the Commission concerned improper permissions given by the Public Authorities. The RDA was petitioned by a citizen in the public interest regarding an unauthorized construction on the Hakmana Road in Matara and the Panadura UC was brought before the Commission in regard to filling and construction of land in a manner that flooded surrounding areas. Included also, was an order handed down in relation to an information request filed by a public servant in regard to obtaining details of her alleged victimization by her employer.
Several other matters have also been listed for hearing. Among these are two RTI appeals filed by a non-governmental organization Transparency International, Sri Lanka, regarding the assets declarations of the President and the Prime Minister.
Following the hearings of the Commission attended by the appellant and the respondent Secretary to the Prime Minister and the Additional Secretary (Legal) to the President, the Commission has listed the matter for the consideration of two preliminary questions of law. These relate to TISL failing to specify the fact of its membership coming within the definition of ‘a citizen’ in the initial information request to the Public Authority.
Section 3 (1) of the RTI Act states that “Subject to the provisions of Section 5 of this Act, every citizen shall have a right of access to information which is in the possession, custody or control of a public authority.” Section 43 defines a ‘citizen’ as “a body whether incorporated or unincorporated, if not less than three-fourths of the members of such body are citizens.” The Rules of the Commission gazetted in February 2017 state that the requirements in RTI 01 form which is the information request format can be submitted even on a blank sheet of paper but must contain the necessary details in accordance with the RTI Act.