This is according to the Deputy Minister of Information and Communication, lawyer Solomon Jamiru. He made this statement while delivering a keynote address on behalf of the Vice President Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh, at the launching of the Proactive Disclosure Forum organized by the Right to Access Information Commission at Miatta Conference centre, Freetown, on Thursday 6th December 2018.
Mr. Jamiru described proactive disclosure of information as the releasing of information before it is requested which can only be actualized by public authorities voluntarily releasing information to the public, as against reactive disclosure which only happens after the request has been made. This, the deputy Minister said, is in line with President Bio’s drive in the fight against corruption.
He highlighted that ten MDAs, including the Sierra Leone Police, Environment Protection Agency EPA, National Revenue Authority (NRA), National Public Procurement Authority (NPPA), Statistics Sierra Leone have been selected to be part of the pilot phase of the Proactive Disclosure project funded by the World Bank.
In his statement at the conference, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Dr. Alie Kabba said the RAI Act will help strengthen the democratic pillars of Sierra Leone, which is in fulfillment of the campaign promise under the New Direction to uphold the tenets of democracy.
In his contribution, Internal Affairs Minister, Mr. Edward Soluku pledged the commitment of his ministry to collaborate with RAIC and affirmed that he will encourage all the departments and agencies under his ministry, including the Police, Immigration, National Civil Registration Commission, Fire Force, and Correctional Service to fully cooperate with the proactive information publication scheme.
The Chairman and Information Commissioner of RAIC, Dr. Ibrahim Seaga Shaw said the RAIC is the only institution in Sierra Leone with the legal mandate to lead the process of promoting access to information and open data through proactive disclosure of information by public authorities which will serve as a corruption prevention strategy. Dr. Shaw reiterated the importance of proactive disclosure in promoting transparency, accountability and good governance which he said form part of the key aspirations of the New Direction government of President Julius Maada Bio, He stressed the detailed classes of information listed in Section 8 of the RAI Act 2013, which form the core proactive publication obligations for every public authority.
Dr. Shaw assured participants that the setting up of RAIC is consistent with Article 9 of the African Human Rights Charter and Article 19 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, both of which provide for the right to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas. He stressed that these two Articles, to which Sierra Leone is a signatory, provide the international legal foundation for the Right to Access Information Act, 2013, and by extension the work of RAIC itself.
He, however, warned that these articles also provide for internationally accepted exemptions such as the protection of individual privacy, national security, defence, customs and traditions etc, which he also said are captured in the RAI Act 2013 as exemptions.
“It is also in the public interest for some of these exemptions such as national interest to be upheld; it is in the public interest for instance for access to be denied to any type of information that would jeopardize our national security and make our country vulnerable to attack from foreign aggressors”, Dr. Shaw added.
The RAIC Chairman and Information Commissioner pledged a robust move by the commission to ensure total compliance by MDAs and assured all of the independence of the Commission urging them to see the RAIC as a partner in development. He said while he is committed to uphold the independence of the commission it is important to note that it is a statutory body located in the Ministry of Information and Communication which means that it would have to collaborate with this ministry and other MDAs and Non-State Actors from time to time. He, however, cautioned that this collaboration should not be taken to mean loss of independence of the commission.