The practice of proactive information disclosure on the websites of the country’s 54 per cent government institutions is “inadequate”, and 94.9 per cent of the NGO’s is “alarming” Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) study revealed.
The study found that the progress regarding proactive information disclosure on websites is not satisfactory enough. Govt. agencies’ websites have plenty of information as per the information disclosure and dissemination rules. However, there’s still a shortage of updating info, and a lack of formatting, expanding and accessing information according to its types.
Besides, the websites are not disabled-friendly as they are not equipped with a voice activation system. On the other hand, the websites of NGOs lack the necessary information as per the rules. In addition, the private sectors lack proper awareness regarding the information disclosure on websites, the study said.
Organising a virtual press conference on August 5, 2021, TIB published the study report titled “Pro-active Disclosure of Information by Government Institutions and NGOs on the Basis of Right to Information Act: An Assessment” aiming to find out the current scenario of the practice of proactive information disclosure in the country under the Right to Information Act.
TIB Executive Director Dr. Iftekharuzzaman, Adviser-Executive Management Professor Dr. Sumaiya Khair, and Director - Research and Policy Mohammad Rafiqul Hassan were present. TIB Coordinator Mohammad Tauhidul Islam conducted the virtual event while TIB Senior Fellow Shahzada M Akram presented the study. TIB former researchers Juliet Rosette, Fatema Afroz and Kumar Bishwajit Das prepared the research.
Using qualitative and quantitative methodology, the study was conducted between the period of August 2020 and January 2021. Direct data were collected by monitoring the websites of the organisations and interviewing main informants. Relevant documents, laws, rules, reports published on different websites and news were reviewed as indirect information.
A total of 207 govt. organisations and NGOs were chosen as samples following proper research methodology. However, the websites of 192 organisations (153 govt. and 39 NGOs) were monitored as 15 (7.2 percent) other organisations didn’t have any websites. The websites were given scores and evaluated based on the information disclosed under a total of 25 indicators in three determined areas of information (19- on the extent of information, 4- on accessibility, and 2- on compatibility).
Turning the final score of every organisation into percentage, a three-type grading system was introduced – “Satisfactory” (67-100 per cent), “Inadequate” (34-66 per cent), and “Alarming” (0-33 percent), to evaluate the organisations. The average score for “Alarming” grade/stage is 8 (15 percent), 27 (54 percent) for “inadequate” grade, and 37 (75 percent) for “satisfactory” grade.
The study shows that 37 percent (57 institutions) govt. institutions have a “Satisfactory” (67 percent) score, 8.5 per cent (14 institutions) have an “Alarming” score, and 54 percent (82 institutions) have an “Inadequate” score. Besides, no NGOs got a “Satisfactory” score/grade; the score of 94.9 percent (36 organisations) NGOs is “Alarming”.
As per the observations of the organisations’ ranking list in the study, the first top ten positions are secured by 69 govt. organisations, with scores ranging from 33 to 42 out of 50. The Ministry of Food, the Ministry of Jute and Textiles and the Ministry of Water Resources jointly secure first place with an overall score of 42 (74 percent) while the Ministry of Women and Child Affairs wins second place and the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Commerce, Bangladesh Bridge Division, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Education - Madrasa Board, Ministry of Industries and Ministry of Social Welfare jointly hold third place. Among the govt. institutions, Inter-Services Selection Board, secures the lowest rank 38th with the lowest score of 4 (8 per cent).
No NGO came in the top ten rankings of the list. Among the NGOs, 19 organisations that are comparatively on the first ten positions than others have scores ranging from 7-22 out of 50.
A national-level NGO, Coastal Association for Social Transformation, is in the first place among NGOs with the highest score of 22 (44 percent), Ahsania Mission is in second, and Gana Unnayan Kendra is in third. Six of the top 10 INGOs are in the ranking list, and the rest of them are national-level NGOs, the study shows.
Speaking at the press conference, TIB Executive Director Dr. Iftekharuzzaman said, “The government and the private sector played a role in materialising the RTI Act. Similarly they too now have the responsibility in ensuring its proper practice. Eleven years after enacting the law, the chances of getting information have increased, but overall, it is not satisfactory. Although proactive disclosure and dissemination of information got legal importance, there are shortcomings in its practice and application. Although government organisations were ahead of NGOs in every indicator of this study, they had the opportunity to improve further.”
“The proactive publication and dissemination of information haven’t been prioritised at institutional level in both public and private sectors. Many organisations do not have a website yet. As a result, the people are being deprived of the benefits they deserve. Although the benefits of the 'Right to Information Act' are supposed to ensure transparency and accountability, this isn't happening”, he added.
Speaking about the NGOs, Dr. Zaman said, "We thought the private sector or NGOs would do much better. But unfortunately, that did not happen. The scores of no NGOs are satisfactory, but about 95 per cent of NGOs are alarming instead, which is disappointing. In the case of international NGOs, they have no information (uploaded to their websites) according to the information disclosure and dissemination rules. Since non-governmental organisations are involved in the right to information movement and work with the government to implement it, the proactive practice of publishing and disseminating information needs to be exercised more. ”