Access to information to help curb corruption, says Danish

Monitoring Desk

KABUL: Second vice-president Sarwar Danish introduced new members to the Oversight Commission on Access to Information (OCAI), saying access to information could help reduce corruption. Five new members of the OCAI, including Ainuddin Bahaduri, Zahra Musavi and Hamdullah Arbab, were introduced to the commission for a period of five years and Najiba Muram and Fazal Bari Baryali for a period of three years in line with a presidential decree.

Sarwar Danish, who introduced the new OCAI members, said the new commissioners had a tough job ahead. He said key element of the freedom of expression was access to information could improve transparency and prevent corruption in government and nongovernmental organizations.

“If organizations do not provide information to people, then they can easily hide their corruption and escape from justice,” he said.

Danish said all government organizations including the Presidential Palace were responsible to the OCAI and access to information law. The OCAI and access to information law paved a fair way for fighting corruption, the VP said. Three laws including the law on access to information, support to exposers of administrative corruption and the law on fighting against corruption were approved this ongoing year and they all must be enforced, he said.

“A number of government institutes have probably did not study these laws,” he said, adding that the OCAI should watch the enforcement of laws and introduce violators to justice.

Sayed Akram Afzali, former OCAI head, supported the newly-introduced members and said, “If you implement the law, I will be on your side, but if you act in violation of the law and fail to implement it, we (former members of the commission) would stand against you first.”

About budget problems of the commission in the past, he said, “All required facilities for the OCAI should be provided in future, we do not want billions of dollars, we want the budget which is estimated around 50 million afghanis.”

Afzali asked government departments to shun the negative thinking that ‘information belongs to the government and should not be shared with others’. He said information was people’s right and any office that refused to share it violated the law.

Pointing to creation of information sources in offices, he said that such sources had been created in 50 government departments so far but some offices did not need therm.

Hasina Safi, acting information and culture minister, said that 15 from 117 candidates for OCAI membership had been introduced to the president who selected five of them as members of the commission based on their profession and gender. She said OCAI members had no right to work in other organization.

Najiba Muram, one of the new OCAI members, talking on behalf of her other colleagues, thanked former members of the commission and promised to be honest in their duties and would not allow any organizations to violate the law.

About secrecy of information, she said departments should know categorizing information was OCAI responsibility. She added access to information should not be confined only to the capital but it should be provided in provinces as well. (Pajhwok)