Uganda Approves Rules to Operationalize FOI Law

19 May 2011

After years of delay, the Ugandan government has decided to issue rules to operationalize the 2005 Access to Information Act.

The regulations have not yet been made public, but the promise that they will be “gazetted” has been made by a key minister. A $500 dispute with the printing company is delaying publication.

The  Africa Freedom of Information Centre has been pressing for release of the regulations, which were basically drafted in 2008, but have been hung up ever since.

Support by the Prime Minister may have made the difference following an episode in which the government was embarrassed by the disclosure that the ministers had failed to make mandated annual reports.

Gilbert Sendugwa, the AFIC coordinator, calls the news “a big step forward.”  He explained the sequence of events like this:

On November 25, 2010 AFIC made an information request to Parliament on how the different ministers were reporting in compliance with Article 43 of the Access to Information Act. On February 9, 2011 having received no response we sent an email reminder. On February 14, 2011 Rose Akol rung and informed us that there was none compliance and suggested that while Parliament was now going to start enforcing Article 43, we should in the meantime make the same request to the Leader of Government Business/ Prime Minister of Uganda. We requested that we would appreciate if the response was made in writing- we are still waiting for the response.

On February 21, 2011 AFIC filed an information request to the Leader of Government Business. On March 16, 2011 The New Vision newspaper carried a story, “Nsibambi warns Lazy Ministers” in which he was quoted directing ministers to comply with reporting requirements. AFIC later received a copy of Prime Minister’s letter dated March 17, 2011 in which he asked the minister for information to respond to our request.

In a letter dated April 15, 2011 the Minister for Information and National Guidance informed AFIC that there was none compliance due to delay in gazetting the regulations and promised that gazetting will be done within two months and thereafter ministers will be complying with reporting requirements.

Two weeks ago AFIC extended an invitation to the Hon. Minister for Information to officiate at a public dialogue to mark World Press Freedom Day. The minister rung me and extended apology because she would be traveling out of the country. She said she would delegate the Director for Information and National Guidance and “would tell him what to say”.  The Public Dialogue  discussed the state of readiness of public bodies to implement the Access to Information Act.

This was based on preliminary study AFIC has commissioned in that regard. 

Participants raised concerns why the regulations had taken so long and recommended that a question should be put to the minister why she is promising regulations for long but nothing has come out of the promises.

 When the Director stood to address the dialogue the question was answered, “I am wondering whether you should not amend the first recommendation…. Regulations have been gazetted!”

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