MoU for access to information in govt depts
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| 10/16/2015 12:00:00 AM
LAHORE: The Punjab Information Commission and the Devolution Trust for Community Empowerment (DTCE) on Thursday signed a memorandum of understanding for a USAID`s Small Grants and Ambassador`s Fund Programme-funded pilot project for access to information in government departments in five major cities of the province.

The offices will be strengthened in Lahore, Sialkot, Gujranwala, Multan and Muzaffargarh in one year.

The MoU was signed by Chief Information Commissioner retired Justice Mazhar Hussain Minhas and DTCE Chief Operating Officer Azhar Bashir in the presence of USAID deputy director for Punjab Maggie Schoch.

The project, Voice for Strengthening Transparency andAccountabilityinPunjab, will provide infrastructural and technical supported to key government departments, build capacity of government officials and civil society members, hold sectorspecific consultative workshops and conduct experience-sharing seminars at the district and provincial level.

The arrangement is aimed at facilitating the use of the Punjab Right to InformationAct 2013 by the stakeholders both from the government as well as citizens to access sector-specific information in education, health, water sanitation and hygiene.

`I am hopeful that this project will build a bridge between the state and the citizen by developing their respective capacities and understanding on the use of the law,` said Ms Schoch.

She said information disclosure was key to creating more open and democratic societies, combating corruption, increasing accountability, improving efficiency and promoting good governance.

Mr Minhas said the commission was helping people get the required information despite shortcomings. The three-member commission had just one assistant and the term of contract of its five daily-wage lower staff had expired but the department concerned was not renewing their contract despite requests, he said.

Similarly, he said, the commission was also not being given the required budgetary support. The commissioners were not given an office for one year after the establishment of the commission, forcing them to operate from their homes. SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT