Access to information law to apply on private entities

The access to information bill, which is currently being debated by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Political Affairs, has given the minister in charge of information the prerogative to list private companies which the law should apply.
Chairperson of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Political Affairs, Alfred Rwasa (L), and his deputy Yvonne Uwayisenga The New Times / J. Mbanda
Chairperson of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Political Affairs, Alfred Rwasa (L), and his deputy Yvonne Uwayisenga The New Times / J. Mbanda

The access to information bill, which is currently being debated by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Political Affairs, has given the minister in charge of information the prerogative to list private companies which the law should apply.

Under this provision, the minister will have to issue a decree that lists all private entities that serve the general public’s interest.

Heated debate among members of the committee rose on Article 17 which partly stipulates that any person can request the minister to list a company.

“What would be the criteria for an individual to apply to the minister requesting to have a company listed?” asked the chairperson of the committee, Alfred Rwasa.

In his response, the Director General in the Prime Minister’s office, Ignatius Kabagambe, stated that an individual who believes a certain company should be listed can apply to the minister requesting to do so.

“Depending on the poor service accorded to an individual, he or she can write to the minister requesting that the organ be listed among those that the law is applicable,” said Kabagambe.

However, to avoid several amendments of laws and decrees, MP Théoneste Safari proposed that the prerogative to list private companies should only be left to the minister in charge of information.

In a new twist, as lawmakers worked on the Access to Information bill, two AFRICA24 television journalists walked in to cover the committee’s proceedings but were asked to leave the room and seek permission from the parliamentary bureau.

Later on, when the Committee took a break, members were engaged in a debate as to whether the journalists had the right to cover the committee proceedings or not.

According to the parliamentary rules and procedures, committee deliberations are open to the public, however some MPs believe foreign journalists can only access the parliament through the Speaker’s office.

The two journalists, who were accredited by the High Council of the Media, were in the country to document Rwanda progress in a range of sectors.

edwin.musoni@newtimes.co.rw

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