–PIC to suffer from shortage of staff till govt approves proposed service rules
–Commission formed to protect Right to Information may have to be shut down if delay persists, regrets PIC chief commissioner
LAHORE: The Punjab Information Commission (PIC) is working without the formation of its service rules as the provincial government has failed to approve its proposal which has led to a shortage of staff and poor performance.
The PIC is an independent enforcement body for the implementation of Right to Information (RTI) which was set up under the Punjab Transparency and Right To Information (RTI) Act, 2013, and the role of the commission was to set the required mechanism for RTI in Punjab, raise public awareness regarding the law, help public bodies comply with the law, train public information officers, monitor their performance, decide complaints and take action against those who were failing to comply with the rules and given guidelines.
Reliable sources told Pakistan Today, that the commission was in need of its service rules to provide a mechanism for the appointment of staff and officers, however, it has failed to do so which is not going in the interest of the employees.
In 2015, the commission had drafted the service rules which were submitted to the government for the approval but despite the hectic efforts and follow-ups, the commission could not obtain the government’s approval, sources said.
It was informed that the delay was largely due to the sluggish process and procedure of involving multiple departments while considerable time is consumed at each stage in vetting and seeking clarifications.
“Despite the passage of four years, the commission could not initiate the recruitment process against the vacant posts and therefore remained without essential staff,” sources said, adding that the commission has failed to deliver in terms of performance due to the lack of staff.
Sources further added that the commission, being the provider of public data, has failed to update the required information on its website as well as for the general masses.
Currently, there is no list of Public Information Officers (PIOs) available on the website, whereas the website says it will be uploaded soon. Similarly, no training has been updated on the website while many of the departments are still missing on the “Proactive Disclosure” tab.
“I think updating the data is not a big task but as they do not have sufficient staff they are lagging behind in many areas,” sources said.
They added that not approving the service rules or delaying the approval shows that the government does not understand the importance of RTI, PIOs or the PIC.
“All over the world there is a smooth system of getting information but we fail to find one when have to look up for a PIO concerned … Many of the government departments do not display the respective PIO’s numbers on their website. This should have been one of the important departments of Punjab but unfortunately, like many others, it is also being ignored,” sources argued.
While talking to Pakistan Today, PIC Chief Commissioner Mehboob Qadir Shah said they had prepared a set of proposed service rules and sent them to the information secretary for approval.
“We did not get any go ahead on the rules and without the service rules we are unable to hire the staff,” he reasoned when asked about the delay. “If the situation remains same, the commission might be shut down as there is insufficient staff. The importance of this commission cannot be denied as, despite numerous challenges, we are implementing the RTI Act throughout the province.”