As the government celebrated its second Right to Information (RTI) day this year, Mass Media and Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera believes that a more watchful public will lead the way to an efficient government service.
“Experience around the world has shown that when the people have information and they are watching, the public service is forced to perform,”Minister Samaraweera said. Addressing a workshop organised by the Department of Government Information at Global Towers, Wellawatte yesterday, the Minister chose to quote economist Joseph Stiglitz and his theory of asymmetric information to highlight the need to have the RTI, “Prof Stiglitz says that due to the unusual access public officials have to information, which is not otherwise available to the general public, officials are able to impose policies on the people suited to serve only themselves and not that which is needed by the people,” he explained.
“When the system of access to and distribution of information is improved, one can minimise the misuse of information by public officials,” he added.
The Minister dismissed allegations that the RTI would simply discourage public officials from carrying out their work due to the fear of censure.
“These arguments have been put forward by those who don’t want this implemented. We have continuously trained government officials and spoken to them about how they can do their job without breaching any laws and serve the people more efficiently,” he said.
“They have also appointed 3000 Information Officers to government institutions,” The Minister said.
The RTI Act which came into force in June of 2016 has since helped many discover information previously not available. The Minister pointed out that the mother of Roshen Chanaka who was murdered in a protest 2011, was able to get the report on an inquiry because of the RTI.
“The report was complete in 2011 and handed over to the President at the time but it was not made public until now”, said Samaraweera. The Minister who stressed that the RTI was one election promise the government has kept, said they would work to further strengthen it through their Vision 2025.