Information officers appointed against RTI Act, says information commissioner

Information Commissioner Abdul Azeez Jamal Abubakur has said that information commissioners in most government offices have been appointed “against the spirit” of the landmark Right to Information (RTI) Act.

Azeez told newspaper Haveeru yesterday that the RTI law stipulates that information officers must not be a high-ranking official.

However, most information officers at state institutions were senior officials, the commissioner noted.

As the law requires a review committee comprised of senior officials, Azeez said there could be conflicts of interest.

Moreover, there were some offices that have yet to appoint information officers, the former Progressive Party of Maldives MP said, noting that these were mostly various departments operating under ministries.

Azeez said he was in the process of hiring employees for the information commissioner’s office and expected to begin work in the near future. The office was established by President Abdulla Yameen in early July after the RTI law came into force.

The commissioner’s tenure is five years and he has the power enforce a fine on information officers who deliberately refuse access to information. Such a fine may not exceed MVR5,000 (US$324).

The commissioner may also fine any individual who destroys requested information, obstructs a public authority or the information officer’s from providing access to information. Such a fine may not exceed MVR25,000 (US$1621).