Right to Information

RTI Act Cracks Open PSDA Secrecy Wall

Lahore: A citizen’s quest for transparency has exposed a potential loophole in the Punjab Skill Development Authority (PSDA) inspection process, sparking a debate about accountability and the right to information.

Zahid Ali Khan, a concerned citizen, filed a request under the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act 2013 (RTI Act) seeking the inspection reports of Imperial College of Technology, Lahore. However, instead of providing the requested information, the PSDA attempted to evade transparency.

The PSDA claimed that the deficiencies identified in the inspections were already available on their web portal, rendering the full reports unnecessary.

Mr. Khan, however, challenged this claim, stating that the web portal’s deficiencies differed from those in the original reports and appeared to be manipulated.

The Punjab Information Commission, upholding the spirit of the RTI Act, intervened and issued a landmark order.

The Commission argued that the Act’s purpose is to promote transparency and build citizen trust, and that pro-active disclosure is crucial.

Three pages verdict singed by Chief Information Commission, Mehboob Qadir Shah and Information Commissioner, Dr. Arif Mushtaq further emphasis that Section 13 of the PSDA Act does not classify inspection reports as privileged or confidential.

The Commission further dismissed the PSDA’s claim that meeting minutes were exempt from disclosure, finding no basis for this argument in the Act’s eight exemptions.

Additionally, Mr. Khan’s allegation of unfair treatment and potential misrepresentation of deficiencies on the web portal further strengthened the case for full disclosure.

Consequently, the Commission directed the PSDA to provide Mr. Khan with certified copies of both inspection reports within a week, and instructed them to routinely share copies of all such reports with the inspected institutions to ensure transparency and eliminate doubts.

This case highlights the importance of the RTI Act in holding public bodies accountable. It serves as a reminder that transparency is vital for building trust in institutions and ensuring fair practices.

The PSDA’s initial attempt to withhold information raises concerns about potential irregularities in their inspection process. The Commission’s intervention, however, restores faith in the legal framework and sets a precedent for greater transparency in future inspections.

Saddia Mazhar

Saddia Mazhar, an accomplished Investigative Journalist hailing from District Sahiwal, Punjab, possesses a fervor for unveiling impactful narratives. With a demonstrated history of hosting radio shows, web TV programs, contributing to esteemed publications, and steering digital media platforms, she stands as a notable figure in the field. Connect with her on Twitter @SaddiaMazhar
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