Access denied

07 February 2019 | Columns

Any country, or for that matter its president, cannot rightfully claim to be serious about fighting corruption without implementing an access to information law.

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) research report titled ‘Access Denied - Access to Information in Namibia’ makes for interesting reading indeed.

The main findings were that 80% of all organisations and institutions did not respond or could not provide the information requested from them. Nearly 60% of the targets simply did not respond to information requests in any meaningful way.

The level of unresponsiveness (75%) to information requests by government departments remains worrying, the report, which was released in December 2017, said further.

Roughly 85% of public enterprises approached for information were unresponsive, “which contradicts the prevailing narrative of improving governance, transparency and accountability”.

The combined unresponsive/information-not-available rate amongst state agencies and special offices was also slightly above 85%. “This must surely raise questions about the levels and quality of oversight of public assets and resources. Out of the 14 regions, just one, Erongo, responded with the information requested, and in a reasonable time.

“The fact that almost 80% of private companies did not respond, withheld the information requested or did not have such information available suggests that transparency is also not a priority for the Namibian private sector,” IPPR noted in its findings.

It also said that from an international commitment standpoint, it is clear that Namibia has willingly placed itself under quite a lot of pressure, “as a signatory to all these declarations and conventions, to create and implement a formal access to information policy and legislative frameworks”.

Namibia Media Trust strategic coordinator, Zoe Titus, said recently that if President Hage Geingob wants to make an impact on transparency and the fight against corruption, government should pass the access to information law.

We agree. What is clear is that information remains inaccessible, which has a massive impact on media freedom in Namibia, and without such a law, we are simply paying lip service to the fight against graft.

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