FOI Notes: Africa, India, US, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Scotland, Bahamas, Nepal

20 April 2017

Africa: A map of “access to information and openness” in Africa, done by Global Integrity. Also a related map, on “transparency and accountability,” a wider measure. Links to scores included.

India: Anjali Bhardwaj and Amrita Johri write that the proposed amendments to the RTI rules “not only make approaching the information commission more cumbersome and legalistic but also defy the diktat of the Supreme Court.” Also see the critical comments of the National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information (NCPRI).

United States: The Office of Information Policy at the Department of Justice announces its collaboration with GSA’s 18F team on the development of a National FOIA Portal.

United States: The White House cuts off public access to visitor logs revealing who is entering the White House complex and which officials they are meeting, ending a voluntary Obama administration practice, reports The New York Times, Time and others. See comments by National Security Archive, Freedominfo.org’s publisher, and one the groups suing for access.

United States: “What will happen to aid transparency under Trump?” writes Lisa Cornish in Devex.

United States: The National Security Archive and the Project on Government Oversight report on an online survey to both FOIA processors and requesters to better understand how agencies search for records requested under the FOIA. Among the conclusions, “FOIA search processes are not nearly as streamlined or as optimized as they could be.”

United States: Steven A. Ballmer, the former chief executive of Microsoft, creates USAFacts to provide an integrated look at revenue and spending across federal, state and local governments, The New York Times writes.

United States: A fun tutorial on FOIA by a television political humor show, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.

Pakistan: The most robust and progressive law in Pakistan is the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act 2013 which scores 139 points out of a total of 140 points on a new Score Sheet of Right to Information Laws of Pakistan by the Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI). Both the Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002 and its replica in Balochistan are the weakest laws in Pakistan, scoring only 30 points, according to an article about the report in The Nation.

Bangladesh: “Promoting “open government” through the RTI Act,” commentary by Shamsul Bari and Ruhi Naz, Chairman, Research Initiatives, Bangladesh (RIB) and Project Coordinator (RTI section), RIB, respectively.

Scotland: An article in The Ferret says:Rosemary Agnew, the retiring Scottish Information Commissioner, describes the performance of ministers on freedom of information as “totally unacceptable” and “rude.” They are denying citizens their legal rights and damaging public trust in government, she warns. She has given ministers six months to make improvements, and will respond with “the full force of the law” if they fail. “I wouldn’t say I’m slapping them yet, but I’m definitely threatening to slap them hard,” she says. Agnew is stepping down as information commissioner on April 30 and will work as the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.

Bahamas: “Certain parts” of the highly anticipated Freedom of Information Act are slated for enactment this week, according to Minister of Education, Science and Technology Jerome Fitzgerald, as reported in Tribune 242.

Nepal: An article in the international Budget Partnership blog describing how the Freedom Forum, a civil society organization, used the RTI law to investigate special funds allocated to parliamentarians.

Report: “Financing Development For Children In Africa: The State Of Budget Transparency And Accountability In The Continent,” a report by the International Budget Partnership and UNICEF.

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