Information Commission Begins FOI Awareness

By Christiana Saywah-Jimmy

The Independent Information Commission (IIC) has begun creating public awareness on the Freedom of Information Act but a Carter Center Representative observes that the drafters lack tracking and monitoring of the system.

Speaking at a one day awareness workshop for personnel of the Commission at its Sinkor head offices, Mr. Alphonso Zeon said the law has two parts; one representing civil society and the other, government and that is the core of the enactment of the FOI law. He said the law is such that before any civil society is supported to access the law, the government should be in the position to provide the information as well.

Meanwhile, the Deputy Minister for Administration at the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, Norris Tweh said the law is intended to move the country in the right direction as he lectured on ‘Rolling out public agency fulfillment of the Freedom of Information Act and appointment of Public Information officers, their roles and responsibilities’.

Mr. Tweh began by citing Article 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and Article 15© of the Liberian Constitution which gives every person the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas.

The Deputy Information Minister said the law has several benefits which are classified into two categories namely primary and secondary. Among those considered primary are to increase transparency and government accountability.

The law among other things also seeks to provide greater efficiency and effectiveness, better use of small resources, allow citizens’ participation and to attract more foreign investment as well as to exercise socio-economic rights while the secondary values are modernization of public administration, job satisfaction, customer service, among others.

Min. Tweh said the government’s role is to identify number of the FOI deliverables and adopt a procedural manual to be popularized by the users thereby urging the IIC personnel to know the law so that as they begin the awareness process, they would deal with the public concern regarding access to information in accordance with the law.   The FOI Acts have been adopted by 90 countries worldwide with Liberia being the 6th country in Africa and the first in West Africa.

Meanwhile the ICC administrator, Emmanuel Howe said the workshop is intended to expose the staff to the working knowledge of the FOI Acts as well as the mandate of the Commission.

He said the process begins the implementation phase of the ICC’s mandate moving from institutional phase to a more technical work which is dealing directly with the public while the head of the Commission, Cllr. Mark Bedor-Wla Freeman drilled the personnel through the overview of the Acts, its scope, mandate, complaints and appeal procedures and exemptions.