Sri Lankan Right to Information Act Implementation Assessment 2019

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Sri Lankan Right to Information Act Implementation Assessment 2019

Download Full Report [Sri Lankan Right to Information Act Implementation Assessment 2019]

The RTI implementation assessment was commissioned by Transparency International Sri Lanka and was carried out by the Institute for Participatory Interaction in Development (IPID). The objective of the assignment was to assess the implementation of the RTI Act, focusing on 3 assessment areas; Proactive disclosure, Institutional measures and Processing of requests.

The approach for the assessment was adopted from the ‘Freedom of Information Advocates Network’ (FOIAnet), which is an international information-sharing network of organizations and individuals working to promote the right of access to information. RTI implementation was assessed in three areas that are provided for under the RTI Act and rules and regulations. The assessment was carried out in a sample of 30 public authorities, divided among different administrative levels. The FOIAnet uses a colour grading system together with numerical scoring to rate the assessment areas, authorities and the country. The colour scoring includes 3 colours; Red for a low scoring (needs significant improvments), Yellow for a medium scoring (needs some improvements), and Green for a high scoring (needs little improvement).

The first assessment of the proactive disclosure presented interesting findings, with the lower administrative level of Divisional Secretariats performing best under this category. It was also observed that a standard website design has been provided for all District Secretariats, Divisional Secretariats and other lower level administrative authorities. However, very few authorities have made an effort to develop the website content and regularly update the information.

Authorities under all administrative levels performed well under assessment area 2 (institutional measures), with all authorities except one having a designated information officer for RTI processing. With the presence of a RTI nodal agency and an information commission at the national level, all authorities Sri Lanka earned a yellow grade for the institutional measures undertaken to implement the RTI Act.

Sri Lanka scored another yellow grade in the assessment of the processing of requests, as only 13 of the 30 selected authorities provided a positive outcome to the RTIs that were filed. Out of these 13, only 7 authorities scored a green grade, and all 7 authorities were from the district and divisional administrative levels, which reaffirms that the RTI Act is implemented most efficiently at the lower administrative levels.

The overall scoring of 1 red and 2 yellow grades for the 3 assessment areas qualifies Sri Lanka for an overall country colour code of yellow for RTI implementation. Sri Lanka ranks 4th in the Global Right to Information Rating, which is a reflection of the strength of the RTI legal regime in Sri Lanka. However, the current implementation of the RTI Act has produced a yellow colour grade for the country. While this is an acceptable scoring, and solace may be taken in this fact, it still shows the glaring disparity between theory and application.

The assessment highlighted a general lack of awareness about the RTI Act among mandated officers, lack of proactive disclosure at physical locations of higher administrative level authorities, incomplete and out-dated information on public authority websites and inefficient payment systems for provision of requested information. One of the most direct contributors to the low functionality of the RTI Act is the slow process of converting to a digital system from a paper-based system at government public authorities. The lack of access to digital data prevents authorities from providing timely and complete answers to requests.

The following recommendations are geared towards government authorities and NGOs that advocate for the RTI for better implementation in the future.

 Provide training to relevant authorities and officers under each assessment area
 Develop and distribute manuals and infographics for trainers
 Provide a standard technological software solution to all public authorities to calculate timelines from the date of receipt of an RTI
 Awareness-raising programmes to the public on RTI requests and the rights of citizens
 Modify the international assessment tool to better suit the local context and Act
 Carry out annual assessments

Download Full Report [Sri Lankan Right to Information Act Implementation Assessment 2019]

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