The Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration has directed the local levels to designate one of their employees as an information officer and post his/ her personal details with contact number and photograph on the official website.

Section 6 of the Right to Information Act, 2007 states that each public body shall arrange an information officer for the purpose of disseminating information delivered to its office. It also requires the chief of the public body to regularly provide information delivered in the office to the information officer to facilitate the latter in disseminating specified data or information to service-seekers on demand.

The act also stipulates the provision of an information section in each public body.

Fourteen years after the implementation of the act, many local levels and other public bodies have yet to designate their information officers to grant access to information for the public as per the constitution and prevalent law which ensures right to information.

"As many local levels are still found to be functioning without an information officer, they are requested to abide by the existing law and designate one of their employees as an information officer and publish his/her details on the official website as soon as possible," read a circular issued Local Level Coordination Section of the MoFAGA today.

According to the circular, it is expedient to implement the mandatory provision of information officer in the local governments to protect sensitive information of the office and ensure the citizens' right to information for enhanced transparency of their activities by making the office-bearers and employees accountable and responsible to the citizens.

Recently, the National Information Commission had warned that many public bodies were being run without assigning any staffer as information officer. According to the NIC, the citizens have the right to demand and obtain information held by the public bodies regarding the issue of public importance.

Both the information provider and receiver are equally responsible for implementation of the right to information. Disseminating information is more important during the COV- ID-19 pandemic.

In some case, even public bodies having information officers often refuse to provide information. The NIC said it received 1,013 complaints against public bodies for their refusal to provide information in the fiscal 2019-20. Likewise, the procedure related to public accountability promotion also stipulates a provision of spokesperson and information officer in local levels.

A version of this article appears in the print on June 28 2021, of The Himalayan Times.