Kenyan President Signs Bill Creating Access Law

1 September 2016

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta on Aug. 31 signed an Access to Information bill into law.

The final text of the bill is not yet available.

The Kenyan National Assembly recently approved the Senate’s changes to the ATI bill. (See previous report.)

“The new law allows the public to seek information from government, and obliges public servants to provide that information, on pain of fines or jail terms,” according to a presidential statement.

Henry Maina, Director of ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa, said in a statement, We congratulate the President in assenting to the access to information law. The passage of the Act heralds a new dispensation of openness in the country and underlines the President’s commitment to promote transparency and accountability within government.”

Article 19 said:

The Act articulates the processes by which citizens can request for information from public entities and relevant private bodies, and penalizes the withholding of information by public information officers.  It also prescribes the procedures for complaints, and confers upon the Commission on Administrative Justice enforcement and oversight powers.

“We should now prioritize the implementation of the provisions of the Act. This requires the understanding of different stakeholders including the executive, judiciary, media, CSOs and the private sector of their roles in implementation,” added Maina.

Article 19 Eastern Africa noted, however, “that the Act may have a few challenges on matters of scope, as it seems to exempt cabinet deliberations and records from disclosure, and broadly defines national security.”

The statement continued:

We hope that the requirement by the Act that the Cabinet Secretary formulates regulations should be taken as an opportunity to narrow exemptions and broaden the scope of disclosure by the Executive. Other issues to be articulated by the regulations include formats, record keeping by public entities, accuracy of information and complaints procedures.

Also praising the action, Maureen Kariuki, Regional Civil Society Coordinator for Africa and the Middle East of the Open Government Partnership said, “By providing greater access and transparency to government decision-making, Kenya’s Access to Information Act will further strengthen the essential bond between citizens and government. This was a flagship commitment in the recently approved second Kenya OGP National Action Plan, and will help Kenyan citizens access vital information about how the country is run.”

An article on the signing appeared in the CIO East Africa.

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