Islamabad — The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Right to Information (RTI) Commission saw the Covid-19 pandemic as a “catalyst of change” to improve government responsiveness to information requests, information commissioner Riaz Daudzai said.
He was speaking in connection with the International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI) on September 28. The theme of IDUAI 2020 was “Saving lives, building trust, bringing hope” through access to information in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Daudzai said the RTI commission made its online application system — the eRTI web portal — more effective during the Covid-19 lockdown. The commission, which facilitates the implementation of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa RTI Act 2013, receives complaints from citizens who have not obtained information from provincial government departments for their RTI requests.
“We received 365 complaints through the eRTI system alone,” Daudzai said.
He said the commission’s focus during the pandemic was on ways to minimise the supply side shocks resulting from the lockdown, which could limit the ability of public bodies to respond to information requests.
“We developed training material for Public Information Officers (PIOs) and heads of government departments keeping the pandemic in mind,” Daudzai said. “It included a handbook that was printed and also shared online with the PIOs.”
When it was safe to travel, the commissioners followed Covid-19 Standard Operating Procedures to meet with PIOs in different districts to raise awareness or conduct inspections of departments that were not supplying records to the public. Daudzai said the percentage of unsuccessful information requests out of total RTI requests has decreased in the province.
“We did not take the pandemic as a stumbling stone,” he said. “We used the Covid-19 pandemic as a catalyst of change to improve our use of technology.”