Right to Information

ACR is no more a Secret Document, PIC decides

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Information Commission on Friday held that Annual Confidential Report (ACR) prepared to evaluate the performance of the government employees is not a secret document to the extent of its availability to the employee concerned.

In pursuance of an appeal of a citizen Yasir Mehmood, the PIC has issued a detailed verdict and held that that record generated during the course of service of an employee and placed on personal file of the employee is public record which should be made available to the employee concerned on his or her request.

The commission in its final verdict has directed the Directorate General of Civil Defence to provide the copy of the personal file including ACR to the appellant within seven working days.

The Order states that there is no absolute exemption from disclosure to any document in its entirety. Furthermore, public bodies cannot classify documents arbitrarily, if a document or a part of it is to be classified, the method of its classification is mentioned in Section 7 (f) of the Act.

The government employees have every right to see remarks recorded about their performance by their seniors as part of their official responsibilities. Section 24A (1) of the General Clauses Act 1897 requires civil servants to exercise their powers “reasonably, fairly, justly, and for the advancement of the purposes of the enactment”, the commission observed.

The copy of the Order available with “The Reporters” states that what is the harm in disclosing ACR to the employee concerned if ‘reasonable’, ‘fair’ and ‘just’ reasons have been recorded in the ACR by a relevant senior? On the other hand, how can government employees improve their performance if they do not know questions raised about their performance?

The order further states, as the country graduates from post-colonial era where secrecy has been a norm and provision of information an exception after the insertion of Article 19-A into the Constitution and the enactment of the Right of Access to Information Act 2017, civil servants are expected to ensure that transparency becomes a norm and secrecy an exception, and that too on justifiable legal grounds. This commission holds that there are no justifiable grounds of withholding access to their own ACR from the employees.

This commission is of the view that in order to promote good governance, transparency and managing the performance of its human resources, the federal government should follow the suit of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government which has amended the performance evaluation rules, and has re-categorised the ‘confidential’ category of the Performance Evaluation Report, paving ways for the officers to see the assessment report to be written by their superiors about their performance, verdict stated.

The public body is also directed to proactively share through the website all categories of information mentioned in Section 5 of the Right of Access to Information Act 2017 and submit the compliance report to the commission.

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