MUTARE– Two local authorities in the province fingered named among worst public institutions with opaque operations that renege on their duty to provide access information, in a new transparency report.
Preliminary findings of report Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Transparency Assessment Index Report also name the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) as the most open institution in Zimbabwe.
The two local authorities fingered the new report are Mutare City Council and Chipinge Rural District Council, which scored 12 and 14 out of a possible total of 40, signifying opaque operations and limited access to information.
MISA official Malvern Mukudu told journalist during the MISA Mutare advocacy chapter Annual General Meeting (AGM) that public institutions should make use of online services to enhance public access to information.
The Environmental Management Agency (EMA) is the most open institution in Zimbabwe according to MISA Zimbabwe’s 2020 Transparency Assessment findings while Chitungwiza Municipality is the most secretive.
“This transparency report is borne out of the advocacy work we do to provide empirical evidence on access to information in public institutions.
“As we push for progressive laws we have been running this index for seven years to test how selected government departments and municipalities’ institutions respond to information request through AIPPA.
Through this empirical evidence on how the law was being adhered, we will to advocate for progressive laws and implementation of existing ones,” he said.
MISA has been conducting research and studies since 2009 to establish the difficulty with which citizens in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) can access public information.
In a communique MISA said the regional study is also based on the findings of assessments on whether public institutions proactively make relevant information available online in the form of websites or social media accounts.
“EMA was assessed as the most open institution after being assessed as being active on social media and maintaining a “partially” up to date website. Although the institution was unable to provide information that had been requested, they explained their reasons.
“Chitungwiza Municipality (most secretive) did not respond to the requests for information. A senior official stated that they did not receive the request and recommended that the requests be resubmitted through email,” read part of the communique.
Other organisations that were surveyed include Chipinge Rural District Council, Forestry Commission of Zimbabwe, Ministry of Health and Child Care, Ministry of Mines and Mining Development, Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development, Mutare City Council and Zimbabwe School Examinations Council.
Regionally, similar studies were conducted in Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania and Zambia.
MISA said it was noted that public institutions have a culture and practice of acknowledging receipt of information requests, as opposed to providing the information sought.
It said while public institutions are receiving request they are not notifying ‘when they receive the information request letter, but only acknowledge receipt upon physical follow-up visits to their offices.’
“MISA Zimbabwe encourages organisations to effectively use online platforms to disseminate information to the public while the new law on access to information, the Freedom of Information Act, should be continuously evaluated to ensure it gives effect to Sections 61 and 62 of the Constitution that provide for freedom of expression, media freedom and citizens’ right to access to information.