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Voluntary disclosure beats govt's secrecy

The Central government ministries now have six months to voluntarily disclose information on a dedicated website.

delhi Updated: Dec 27, 2010 00:38 IST
Chetan Chauhan

The Central government ministries now have six months to voluntarily disclose information on a dedicated website. Earlier under the Right To Information Act, implemented on October 12, 2005, the Central Information Commission (CIC) had given the government 120 days to comply with the act's section four for the voluntary disclosure.

As secrecy is still the general norm, that has not happened in the government functioning. "This mental barrier needs to be crossed, not so much through talks and proclamation of adherence to openness in governance but through tangible action," the CIC said, in a recent directive to the government.

Defining the tangible action, the CIC directed the government ministries and departments to segregate information for voluntary disclosure, and those for which the citizens will have to file an RTI application. The law will apply only to the information that the departments categorise as non-voluntary in nature.

The voluntary disclosure will be listed on a dedicated website to be launched by the CIC.

Each department will have to designate a transparency officer to ensure that the commission gets the information on time at regular intervals.

The officer will also have to ensure that the public information officers (PIOs) adhere to the 30-day period for replying to an RTI application.

These officers will then be held accountable if the department is found to be repeated violator of the RTI regulations.

The CIC has enlisted the type of information to be disclosed voluntarily.

It includes remuneration received by every employee working in an organisation and his or her duties, the procedure to be followed in decision-making and a statement on utilisation of the funds.

The commission felt that unless the key requirements of section four are not fully met, the suo motu objectives of the (RTI) Act as enshrined in its preamble cannot be realised. "Hence this directive," the order signed by all information commissioners said.

In the last few years, the CIC through different orders have been asking the government departments to voluntarily disclose information but failed to get positive response.

"It was the only option left with us to ensure that the government implements the law in totality," an information commissioner said on condition on anonymity.