Islamabad: The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government has been ‘dragging its feet on the appointment of information commissioner (legal)’ of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Information Commission (KPIC) even one-and-a-half years after completion of tenure of the entity’s former commissioner, The Reporters has learnt.
The KPIC, set up under the KP Right to Information Act, 2013, is headed by chief information commissioner and comprises two commissioners, including one from legal background and other from civil society.
Sources said that former information commissioner (legal) Mah Talat completed her tenure in October, 2019 and the KP government was yet to appoint her successor.
KPIC Information Commissioner (civil) Riaz Daudzai said that section 25(4) of the KPRTI Act 2013 states that while deciding a complaint, the Information Commission shall consist of at least two members or one member and the chief information commissioner and the decision of the commission shall not be invalid on the ground of existence of any vacancy”.
But, Riaz Daudzai added, absence of information commissioner (legal) has doubled their workload. They are trying their best to manage the commission affairs with the existing staff but yet many things left pending such as the annual performance report of the Commission, which was due to submit in the KP Assembly in July this year, Daudzai maintained.
Former information commissioner (legal) Mah Talat completed her tenure in October, 2019 and the KP government was yet to appoint her successor.
There are 44 sanction posts in the KPIC and six, including the post of information commission legal, are vacant.There are some lower level posts vacant in the commission office but their vacancy doesn’t affect performance of the commission as the vacant post of information commissioner (legal) does, said Riaz Daudzai when asked about the impact of vacant posts on performance of the commission. Another staff member of the commission requesting not to be named said one of the drawbacks of delaying appointing information commissioner legal after the departure of his predecessor was that proper handing over of the office work would not take place.Non-governmental Centre for Governance and Public Accountability (CGPA) Executive Director Anwer Yousafzai said that KPIC was set up under the RTI Act, 2013, which was the PTI government’s first major legislation after getting power in the province. If the provincial government takes its credit then it should not overlook its working and smooth operation, said Anwer Yousafzai.
There is no procedure outlined in the law for appointment of the entity’s chief and commissioners.
Anwer Yousafzai said that currently there was no procedure outlined in the law for appointment of the entity’s chief and commissioners.
He said they have written letters to Chief Minister Mehmood Khan and other concerned departments and individuals but to no avail so far. About the role of civil society, Anwer Yousafzai said the civil society played an active role in enacting the RTI law and will continue its efforts for a smooth operation of the commission. They are raising the issue at every available forum and will go for serious reaction if the commission doesn’t fill its vacant post.
Information Commissioner Daudzai said although we are putting all-out efforts to run the commission affairs smoothly but still vacant posts affect the Commission performance in various areas.
There is a need to create awareness among public and train concerned officials in the public sector departments but due to delay in appointment of the commissioner legal affairs we could not pursue awareness activism to the extent we could, he added.
While criticizing the commission staff attitude, Anwer Yousafzai said citizens are irked by the lethargic attitude of the commissioner and staff, adding that many citizens have even stopped filing complaints with the commission. Yousafzai said leaving institutions without proper staff for years also eroded trust in them.
Dissatisfied over the power and performance of the current commissioners, Anwer Yousafzai said that there should be an accountability mechanism for the commission as well, adding that an independent and empowered commission can work in the best public interest.
It is to mention here that under section 24 of the KP RTI Act 2013, the KP government was bound to set up an information commission on the commencement of this act within a period of 120 days, headed by chief information commissioner and comprising two information commissioners.