Civil Society Organizations ask government to disclose more information on COVID-19

As the country joins the rest of the world to celebrate the International Day of Access to Information, Civil Society Organizations (CSO) have asked ministries, departments and agencies to disclose public information on Covid-19 as a way to enforce the law.

In an interview with the Daily Monitor about the day that has been themed, “Access to Information in times of crisis”, Mr. Gilbert Sendugwa, the Executive Director of Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) an organization that fosters information flow to the public said most ministries have failed to comply with the law by denying the public sufficient information on issues especially in times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has also pushed the government to embark on large scale emergency procurements of necessities to prevent infections and mitigate the economic and social impacts of the pandemic. Limited access to the information has acerbated problems of ghost projects, corruption, collusion, cost escalation, delays, and conflict in contracting all of which undermine value for money,” Mr. Sendugwa said yesterday.

The international Access to information day was introduced by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) on January 27, 1984, and later ratified by the UN General Assembly in 1966 had been ratified by 173 States, including Uganda.

On October 15, 2019, the 74th UN General Assembly (UNGA) proclaimed 28th September as the International Day for Universal Access to Information. This year, therefore, marks the first commemoration of the International Day for Universal Access to Information since its adoption by the UN General Assembly last year.

In their shadow report presented to Parliament in January this year, CSOs led by AFIC indicated that only 20 per cent of the ministries departments and agencies had provided information on the relevant issues in the public and thereby breaking the law of access to information.

In his response to the issues raised by CSOs to ministers, Mr. Julius Mucunguzi, the spokesperson in the office of the Prime Minister said they always encouraged minters to give updates to the public as much as possible.

“We have many platforms at hand including the Uganda Media Center and the different social media platforms where minister give their updates. Is there a need to improve, yes. But for as far as I know they are doing their best in this regard,” Mr. Mucunguzi said in a telephone interview.

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