Government officers must not use the
official secrets Act to deny citizens the right to access of information and
records. It is emerging that civil
servants at different levels have tended to use archaic laws like the official secrets
act to deny citizens information.
The Official Secrets Act prohibits officials from
disclosing government information.
The call was made by the Director of Information,
Communication and national Guidance, Simon Mayende as he launched the access to
information guidelines for civil servants.
He says while the official secrets
Act is part of the law books, it should not be used to deny citizens of right
guaranteed by article 41 of the 1995 constitution.
/////// Cue in “The head of public
Cue Out…….to give out information” /////
Some civil servants have pretended
to know little about the Access to Information law despite almost sixteen years
since its enactment.
But Mayende, also a former Samia Bugwe
MP who representing state minister for ICT at the launch of the guidelines said
they will ensure that that all civil servants especially communication officers
abide with the law.
“Communication officer must attend
all high level meetings. They must be invited to attend whether they are at
junior or senior level. Because they can be able to access information at some
of the management level meetings. That Official Secrets Act should never be used
to hide or deny information” Said Mayende
///// “Cue In “Communication officers
Cue Out…… to hide or deny
Apart from the official secrets Act,
such as the Regulations of Interception of Communications Act, 2010 and the Anti-Terrorism
Act, 2002 provide additional barriers to citizens’ right to information and
It is hoped that the launch and popularization
of the Access to Information guide for civil servants will increase awareness
about the need to implement the Access to Information Act.
In March 2011, the Ministry of ICT
and National Guidance published the Access to Information Regulations as
required by section 47 of the Access to Information Act, 2005. But many
Ugandans have continued to be denied information as simple as budgetary
allocations and expenditure.
by Twaweza and African Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) found that few
requests for information are being made. AFIC in 2019 found that majority of
the information requests were being denied or unsuccessful.
to the report, out of over four thousand access to information requests, less
that one out of ten or (9%) were partially successful.
The Access to
Information Act provides for a right of access and a duty to provide
information. The Act applies strictly to information in possession of the state
or public body.
Section 5 of the Act
restates the right of access to information in almost similar terms as Article
41 of the Constitution. It obligates information officers to supply only accurate and up to dateinformation.
Africa Freedom of
Information Centre’s Legal and Research Officer, Susan
Juliet Agwang said access to accurate and update is extremely important in the protection
of rights and freedoms
////“Cue In “Various
citizens noted that……
Cue Out……over 1200
information requests awaiting response”////
New data by Twaweza’s
Sauti Za Wanainchi further demonstrated the difficulties citizens are going
through in effort to access to information and records. A survey from 1,500 respondents was conducted between October and December 2020.
Africa’s Senior Program Officer, Marie Nanyanzi said their date revealed that Seven out of ten
citizens (70%) say it is “not easy” to access information on government
budgets, laws, and projects.She also noted that Citizens’ confidence that they would be
provided with information if they ask for it is declining.
Why Is Access to Information Critical for
Twaweza East Africa
Executive Director, Aidan Eyakuze observed that access to public information is
absolutely central to whether a given country or society develops or they
stagnate and regress.
He said countries like Ukraine
were able to able to save a billions of dollars annually by making public
procurement purely public. Ukraine, according to Eyakuze was losing 2.4 billion
dollars annually from corruption.
Aidan Eyakuze, a Tanzanian National
said there has never been a time when information has been crucial than during
a pandemic like COVID-19.
////Cue IN “ That is Ukraine
but we are living……
Cue Out……acute respiratory diseases”/////
Some of the prominent Tanzanian
that have died in recent times include its former President, Dr John Pombe
Some have suspected that he died of COVID-19 related infections. But the
Presidency in the country said he died of a heart-related complication.