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Sierra Leone News: Public officials schooled on the right to access information 

The Society for Democratic Initiative (SDI) on Tuesday 4 December 2018 engaged public officials from different MDA’s on the Right to Access information Act and the local Government Act of 2004. The engagement took place at the Hotel Cabenda, Signal Hill on the Theme” transparent and accountable government will ensure service delivery of basic amenities. According to the Executive Director of SDI, Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai, it is obligatory on the side of public officials to give out information to people who demand for them, noting that as long as they are not classified information. He pointed out that the Local Government Act of 2004 has strong provisions on the right to access information from the councils, adding that everyone has the right to seek for information held by public figures. In his statement the Chair of the Right to Access Information, Ibrahim Seaga Shaw, averred, “The right to access information came as a result of a lot of campaigning and advocacy by CSOs for ten years”, adding that his institution has the legal mandate to promote information and data for individuals seeking for it. He said apart from promoting transparency accountability and good governance, they are also engaging in service delivery. He stresses that there should be openness amongst MDAs, and they should make their activities public, so that people may be aware of their work. The Deputy Chair of the Western Area Rural District Council, Robert Brown, said they are the highest political body in the locality and they seek to promote accountability and transparency in their locality. He said failing to make their activities public, it will affect their trust with the people that will hinder their chances of implementing projects they have designed. “We are displaying all of our activities in our notice board so that they people may have an idea of what we are doing.” While giving a lecture on the right to access information, Emmanuel Saffa said the worlds first freedom of information was adopted in Sweden in 1766 and only came into effect in 2013 in Sierra Leone. He underscored that it is an obligation on government bodies to publish certain kinds of information proactively, even in the absence of a request, noting that the right to access information is not an absolute right. Amongst the information that will be restricted, is the one that has to be with the promotion of national security, to promote on going criminal investigations and to protect the economy of the state and to protect information relating to private or personal lives of individuals. A participant of the training, Alfred Bockarie, noted, “Many a time public officials deny us information for a reason best known to them but with what I have learnt today I now know what to do to get what I want.”


By Mohamed J. Bah

Wednesday December 05, 2018.

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