The one thing that will allay the fears of citizens concerning the governance system is for them to be in the know about the way they are being governed.
By knowing, citizens will feel that they too are part of that governance system. By knowing then citizens will feel most at ease believing that they are not being short changed in any way by those in authority. The Right to Access Information Commission was created for reasons of accountability and transparency whereby the governance system will no longer be looked at as a secret society but as an open system that all citizens belong to.
The RAI law 2013 provides for the disclosure of information held by those in authority and also those who are providing services to those in authority. This means that an ordinary citizen has the right to ask questions of those in authority and those with whom government is doing business like contractors, those who supply simple things like stationery, and those who offer various forms of services to those in authority. With the RAIC government itself wants to be accessed by the people.
The beauty of it all is that government makes itself open to the people telling them in other words that it has nothing to hide. The RAIC aids citizens to access information that has been denied them by DEMANDING for the said information to be disclosed. Failure to comply can lead to a fine of up to Le100M. All Commissioners, including the Chairman and Information Commissioner of the Commission, sit as judges of the High Court meaning that a judgment meted down by the RAIC can only be appealed against at the Court of Appeals. The RAIC has four Commissioners covering all the regions in the country - East, West, North and South and there is the Chairman and Information Commissioner who is the executive head of the Commission.
To access information, citizens must first request it from those in authority and make their requests known to the Commission. If after 15 days no response is provided, citizens can then complain to the RAIC which will then take up the matter by making the demand for the said information requested to be released. The Act gives the RAIC powers to enter into any premise to seek information requested by the public. The RAIC makes life very easy for researchers and journalists to get accurate information before putting pen to paper. Citizens are encouraged to make use of the RAIC so that they too will feel at home with the governance system of this country.
By Pastor Mohamed Sesay (Western Area Commissioner, Right to Access Information Commission)
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