“Government departments have to proactively disclose all steps undertaken during the pandemic. After this is over, people would exercise their right to information to know where the money was spent. It is essential that steps are taken right away and ministries are sensitised to proactive public disclosure,” CIC Bimal Julka told ET.
CIC has written to the Department of Personnel and Training, the nodal ministry for the Right to Information Act implementation, to sensitise all central ministries and autonomous bodies on keeping records, especially departments involved in relief measures.
“Considering the unique challenges of the pandemic, it may kindly be considered to bring to the notice of public authorities dealing with essential services that government relief, rescue and other welfare actions should be widely disseminated in the media as well as websites in accordance with Section 4 of the RTI Act,” CIC said in its letter.
The letter followed a series of meetings CIC had with former information commissioners and civil society organisations. RTI activists pointed out that it was essential for government to voluntarily disclose expenditure on Covid-19 relief measures.
“If proper files are not kept, accountability issues can be raised later,” Julka said. According to sources, CIC has also asked state information commissions to write to respective state governments and direct them to proactively disclose all steps.
Section 4 of RTI Act mandates public authorities to maintain records, catalogued and indexed, for easy access under RTI Act and ensure that all relevant records are computerized “within a reasonable time and subject to availability of resources …and connected through a network all over the country on different systems so that access to such records is facilitated,” CIC’s letter to DoPT said. The performance of most government departments is below average on proactive disclosure.