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In a joint report released on Tuesday, based on a study conducted from June to August this year, Christine Byiringiro, the program manager of Uganda Debt Network, highlighted that there is an unwarranted denial of information requests by government Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs).
Coalition, Uganda Debt Network, and Transparency International have jointly expressed
concern about the challenges faced by Ugandans in accessing information held by
the state and its organs, despite the existence of laws to facilitate such
In a joint report released on Tuesday, based on a study conducted from
June to August this year, Christine Byiringiro, the program manager of Uganda
Debt Network, highlighted that there is an unwarranted denial of information
requests by government Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs).
These entities often
argue that the format used by the public to request information is informal,
which they claim is against the law. Byiringiro argued that failure to submit
the request in the prescribed format should not be used as an excuse to deny
She pointed to Section 12, which emphasizes the duty to assist
persons in obtaining information. According to this section, even if a citizen
submits a request for access to information in a non-prescribed format, it
should not be a reason to deny them access.
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She also noted that in many government bodies,
the responsibility of handling requests for information is assigned to
communication or public relations officers, as per the provisions of the
government's communication strategy of 2011. However, the Access to Information
Act defines an information officer as the chief executive officer of a public
body, equivalent to a permanent secretary at the ministry level. Byiringiro
stressed the need to harmonize these conflicting roles.
Lilian Ssenteza from Transparency
International Uganda pointed out that the law lacks sufficient clarity
regarding the functioning of the internal appeals mechanism, where aggrieved
citizens can challenge the decision of the officer responsible for providing
information. She also raised concerns about unjustified exemptions in the law,
limiting access to information, especially regarding information from meetings
and minutes that should be easily accessible to the public.
Ssenteza noted that the law is silent on
internal appeal processes, directing aggrieved citizens to go to the chief
magistrate court and later to the high court. This approach is problematic as
courts are often burdened with case backlogs. She advocated for the use of
internal appeals processes before resorting to court action.
The report highlighted that the Official
Secrets Act of 1964 prohibits the media from accessing information on grounds
of protecting the security of the country, which further restricts freedom of
access to information as provided by the constitution.
Marlon Agaba, the Executive Director of
Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda, called for amendments to the access to
information laws to clarify the roles of information officers. Access to
information on public programs and expenditures plays a crucial role in
combating corruption and promoting transparency and accountability.
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Uganda's ranking in
the Global Corruption Perception Index (GPI) highlights the importance of
addressing these issues, with the country currently ranked 142 out of 180
countries, making it the 38th most corrupt globally and the 19th in Africa.