The challenge of some of the issues that the Access to Information Act, now still in its draft form, came to light this week.
This newspaper published a ‘secret’ list of civil servants who had been suspended for failing to declare their assets as the law requires.
What was most alarming, if not amazing, was that several employees of the Ministry of Public Service (MIFOTRA) were quizzed on how the supposedly classified document landed at The New Times’ desk.
The existence of the list had been confirmed to the media by both MIFOTRA and the Ombudsman, but they had refused to reveal its contents.
The secretive manner in which many government bodies operate, should cease, given the fact that they are supposed to be accountable to the public. The proposed Access to Information Act could not have come at a better time.
Article 4 of the Act states: “Every person has the right to access to information held or under the control of a public authority”.
As long as the information does not harm the interests of the country, impede the due process of law or invade the privacy of an individual, then the public is entitled to it.
This is the time to do away with bureaucratic tendencies in the public service and open up to the public for scrutiny. If one has nothing to hide, why go to the troubles of playing cat-and mouse?
Those in the habit of holding public information — such as the list published in our paper — close to their chests, should stand warned that the act will sanction them, should it be passed.
It is the right of the public to know, so MIFOTRA employees should be left in peace