Sunday, August 03, 2008

RTI Project Updates - 29,30 (July 21 - Aug 3)

State Information Commission
I have been thinking for sometime on the reality the fines imposed. So I wanted to see if the fines imposed were actually recovered from the Public Information Officers. Moreover, the commissioners have also said in a couple of places that they have imposed around 200 fines. But of what I have seen of the decisions so far, I am not able to believe that so many fines have been imposed. I had looked at decisions from Jul-Dec 2007, out of the 210 cases, in only 1 case was a penalty imposed. So I planned to look at ALL the decisions of the SIC and find out really how many fines have been imposed and how many have been recovered. With this in mind I tried to talk to Mr.Dhandapani, the registrar to give me copies of decisions of this year (2008). He said that since some office expansion work (like new cabins, new shelves etc) was going on, they have put all files together. After some persuasion I finally was able to inspect the files of Jan-Mar 2007. In these 3 months I found one more judgment where penalty has been imposed. This was against the Registrar of Madras University. The following week I looked at the decisions of about 6 months of 2006 and I found 2 penalties imposed. So the tally now stands at 4 penalties in 15 months. This is pathetic to say the least. Of course in many decisions Show Cause Notices were issued. So I met the Chief Commissioner and asked him if any follow-up had happened on SCNs, and he, to my pleasant surprise, said that some of them have been looked at and penalties imposed. When I asked him whether I can access them, he said I cannot, since they are not separately maintained. But later when I was talking to a section officer this topic of SCNs came up and he told me that SCNs have not been followed up at all. When I specifically asked him whether none of the SCNs have been looked at, he said no. I need to pursue this again with the Chief Commissioner.

RTI with Government Departments
On 22nd June I went for inspection at the Anna Institute of Management, where there were no hassles. They showed me the lists of attendees of all the trainings they have conducted so far. They also showed me the training materials used and told me how they try to cover all departments possible.

On 23rd June, I went to the Finance department at the secretariat for inspection of files related to the Chief Minister's Public Relief Fund (CMPRF). There I was shown the files related to the FY 2006-2007 and 2007-2008. Here I was told that files related to older years than were shown have been destroyed, since all of these are letters which can be destroyed after 1 year. So I asked them how they will look back for any information related to older years, for which they said that they maintain a register wherein all these payments are noted. And so I asked them to show me those registers which they maintain, for keeping track of payments made. This the PIO Mr.Kesavan, refused saying that those are internal records and hence cannot be disclosed. My repeated asking of what is so secret about the register, did not elicit a satisfactory explanation, and I had to return without getting access to that register. Then I filed a first appeal against the refusal of the officials to show me the registers. Moreover, they could not give me an idea of how much money flows in every year, how much is spent and what is the balance. Hence I filed a separate RTI application asking for copies of their bank account statements.

Delhi RTI meeting
On 28th and 29th, I was in Delhi to attend an RTI activists meeting. This was organised by Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia. Here we discussed the workings of the commissions of various states, and at the end of the meeting we decided that we will all spend the next one year working on improving the commissions. We also decided that we should collect data with respect to various aspects of the commission's working like Disposal rate, penalising rate, quality of decisions.

1 comment:

latelearneer said...

Well done Madhav. Keep it up.
Best wishes.