KAMPALA – The Ministry of ICT and National Guidance, Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) and Twaweza have come together to produce and launch access to information guide for civil servants to enable them to meet their legal obligations under the Access to Information Act.
The guide was produced in response to findings from different research studies by AFIC and Twaweza which found that:
- All civil servants agreed that, as a matter of principle, citizens have the right to access government-held information.
- A majority of elected leaders and appointed officials have limited knowledge of the Access to Information (ATI) Act.
- Most public officials don’t know they are legally obliged to release information.
- Civil servants reported that they have not been given any training or guidance on access to information.
- The ATI Act has (thus far) had minimal impact on civil servants’ processes of disclosing information to citizens.
AFIC found that out of 4,059 known information requests, less than one in ten (9%) were even partially successful. Most (81%) were awaiting a response well past the legal 21-day limit for state bodies to respond. Other important aspects of the law were not being followed. In particular, no government body had met the requirement (in Section 43 of the ATI Act) to submit an annual report to parliament detailing ATI requests received and responses given.
Twaweza collected new data on citizens’ experiences and perspectives on access to information from 1,500 respondents between October and December 2020 through the Sauti za Wananchi initiative. Highlights include:
Eight out of ten citizens (83%) sought information from at least one public institution in the previous three months, the same as in 2019 (84%).
Information requests, especially requests from public health facilities (51% of them), are largely for information about services (such as opening hours or medical advice).
Over half (54%) of all reported requests for information about resources (staffing, budgets, equipment, etc.) were granted the information being sought, which is less than the three out of four such requests (75%) in 2019. The proportion of such requests being declined has risen sharply, from 3% in 2017 and 5% in 2019 to 36% in 2020.
Three out of four citizens (74%) say their first method of seeking information from the government would be to physically visit the office. A further two out of ten (18%) would do this as a secondary option.
Across a range of different government offices and different types of information being requested, citizens have less confidence in 2020 that their requests would be successful than in previous years. This is particularly the case when asking where to report wrongdoing or corruption: in 2019, 70% of Ugandans thought they would be given this information, but in 2020 this has fallen to 33%.
The Access to Information Guide for Civil Servants aims to unlock the challenges to access to information for all Ugandans to promote inclusivity, transparency, accountability and good governance.
Violet Alinda, Twaweza Uganda Country Lead and Director of Voice and Participation, said “We are delighted to be involved in preparing this guide for civil servants which is an important step in unlocking citizens’ right to access government information.”
Gilbert Sendugwa of the Africa Freedom of Information Centre added, “Understanding their legal obligations in terms of the Access to Information Act and having the capacity to implement these obligations is critical for civil servants. We are pleased to work with Twaweza and the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance to build this awareness and capacity.”
Peter Ogwang, MP and Minister of State for ICT and National Guidance further stated “We are confident that if these guidelines are followed, they will create the necessary and timely awareness to both citizens and civil servants, to bridge the information gap, and promote better service delivery by the Government of the Republic of Uganda.”