Tanzanian RTI Bill Rated as Rather Mediocre by Mendel

9 April 2015

The Tanzanian government’s right to information bill is “rather mediocre,” according to Toby Mendel, an author of the RTI-Rating index that evaluates RTI laws.

The government recently tabled the long-promised bill (text). It now goes to committee and is expected to be discussed by full House in May. In the face of objections from RTI advocates, the government backed off a plan to pass the bill under expedited procedures. (See previous FreedomInf.org report.)

In Mendel’s preliminary review, the bill got 92 points out of the possible 150. That score would put Tanzania bill in a tie for 40th place globally.

“The weakest performance is in terms of procedures, largely due to the law failing to cover many of the important details in this area,” Mendel said.

Other weaknesses cited by Mendel are:

– being restricted to citizens,

– a conditional definition of information,

– not overriding inconsistent other laws,

– a couple of weak exceptions,

– no severability clause,

– appeals going to the pre-existing human rights commission, which does not have some of the tailored powers needed for information oversight bodies (eg binding decisions or imposing structural reforms on bodies which are systematically failing to meet their obligations), and

– a rather limited package of promotional measures.

Data Law Being Criticized

Tanzania continues to get criticism for a law, apparently not yet signed by the president, that would criminalize the publication of any statistics not endorsed by the National Bureau of Statistics, with minimum penalties of one year in prison or a $6,000 fine.

A Washington Post column by Justin Sandefur suggested some statistics the government may be hoping to hide, such as World Bank data showing that teachers “are absent from school about 23 percent of the time, but in random visits to classrooms, they’re absent from their actual classroom more than 50 percent of the time on the days they’re counted as present.”

The data bill did not come up in public when president of Tanzania, Jakaya Kikwete, was in Seattle April 2 to visit the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and to give a talk hosted by the World Affairs Council that was focused mostly on boosting foreign investment in his country, according to a report by Humanosphere.

The East African called the bill “Draconian.”

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