Monday 22 October 2018

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CIC Mehndle upset over Govt laxity towards RTI

 

Goa administration does not seem to be sensitive to the Right to Information Act (RTI), feels Goa Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) Leena Mehendale.

In an informal chat with The Hindu on Wednesday, Ms. Mehendale could not hide her frustration over the failure of the State government to implement her several recommend-ations meant to effectively implement the RTI Act and to facilitate the functioning of the State Information Commission (SIC).

Interestingly, Ms. Mehendale took over as CIC in October 2013 after a complete vacuum in the SIC for nearly 15-months, leading to huge pendency of appeals and complaints.

Continuing to function, for more than six months from a virtually cramped space of 80 sq. metres which lacks basic toilet facility, and from a make-do courtroom cum office for CIC, Ms. Mehendale, a retired Additional Chief Secretary of Maharashtra puts on a brave front and says, “I hear appeals and has cleared a lot of pendency, but the basic problem of typing of orders, translating orders into local languages, putting them up on website for public consumption with highlights, is seriously handicapped as I am woefully short of staff including steno-typists.”

The CIC is looking forward to shift to a spacious 300 sq. metre new premises in near future as she pursues the bureaucratic task of getting premises ready-to-use.

The CIC is upset that several of her recommendations, including implementation of Section 4 of the RTI Act (suo motu availability of information on websites of government departments) have failed to move the administration right at the top despite repeated communications and reminders.

These include her letters to the government to direct all public authorities to maintain records dully catalogued and indexed in a manner that facilitates RTI and ensure all records to be computerised.

In the absence of serious initiatives to undertake a database for storing of quality information, alibi like ‘files are missing’, ‘information not available’ is common refrain from PIOs, say sources in SIC.

 

Lack of sufficient manpower is her biggest handicap. The CIC is functioning with a staff of eight as against 20 which her predecessor had.

What has understandably agitated her is that even the sanctioned staff has not been allotted for more than six months despite repeated reminders to the government.

Another huge problem has been attempts to reactivate the disfunctional SIC website, making it multi-lingual for non-English users, uploading of judgements of the Commission and regularly updating them has simply not taken off as it is caught in the bureaucratic tape.

Officials of the National Informatics Centre (NIC), State-owned Goa Electronics Limited and State Department of Information and Technology (DoIT) government have simply been passing the buck.

“While the vendors being recommended by NIC are not interested in undertaking small jobs which can make the website user-friendly, the government officials seem to be simply incapable of handling the tasks themselves,” remarked a hapless Ms. Mehendale.

The CIC is presently a one-person Commission as the appointments of fellow State Information Commissioners are getting delayed with model code of conduct being the latest hurdle.

Original Report





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There Must Be One Subject "RTI & CCA" (Right To Information & Citizens Charter Act) In College Degree Course. Many People Still Don’t Understand The Power Of RTI & CCA And Many Of Them Even Don’t Know How To Use It And How It Is Helping Them. RTI & CCA Must Be One Subject In College Degree Course.

 
Jose Rod , Goa

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