Guidance for Information Providers

The public bodies are required to provide information proactively (through website) and on the demand of citizens.  By proactively disclosing information to citizens, public officials also benefit, as it makes easier for them to carry out their duties more efficiently.
The Punjab Transparency and RTI Act, 2013 apply to a range of public bodies in Punjab: Top
  • Government departments (e.g. departments of Education, Health & Local Government) 
  • Attached departments (e.g. Highway Department, Punjab Police, Directorate General Public Relations)   
  • Autonomous bodies (e.g. Fatima Jinnah Medical College, Boards of Intermediate and Secondary Education, Rawalpindi Development Authority)
  • Local governments (e.g. your Tehsil Municipal Administration)
  • Statutory bodies set up under a provincial law (e.g. the Punjab Ombudsman Office, Punjab Public Service Commission)
  • The courts (e.g. Lahore High Court)
  • The Punjab Assembly (e.g. your MPA)
  • The Secretariat of the Governor of Punjab
  • Any Board, Commission, Council or other body substantially financed by the Government.  
  • The NGOs that are substantially financed by the Government are also covered under the law.  
Key responsibilities of the public bodies under the law are: Top
  • Designate Public Information Officers –All public bodies must designate public information officers within 60 days of the Act coming into effect, and proactively disseminate information about their contact details through websites, notice-boards and other media. The public information officers are responsible for assisting citizens to make RTI applications, and then responding to their applications.  
  • Information request forms – Although the RTI request can be made on plain paper, the public body should make these forms available on their websites and in print form. Click HERE for RTI application form.  
  • Properly manage public record – Each public body should develop computerized systems for information management, and maintain their information and record in an easily accessible form.  
  • Information maintained in paper form is also important and must be efficiently managed.  It entails sorting of record for maintaining, devising systems (software and hardware) to organize these for easy access, and training staff for their use.  Since, all this takes time, realistic approach would be to focus on bringing about proper management of current and future record, and focus on previous record in phased manner (over medium-to-long term). 
  • Note: precise requirements (rules, indexing and storage—manual and computerized) and timeline for proper maintenance of record will soon be provided by the Punjab Information Commission
  • Publish annual RTI reports – Public bodies must publish annual reports by 31 August, detailing their RTI related activities over the previous financial year
  • Proactive disclosure of information – Public bodies must proactively disclose following information relating to their functions and operations: 
  • Basic information about the public body – what it does, its functions
  • Duties and powers of its officers and employees
  • How the public body works: the norms and procedures it follows to carry out its functions
  • All Acts, rules, regulations, notifications and so on under which the public body operates
  • A list of the types of information held by the public body
  • The decision-making processes of the public body, and whatever opportunities there are for citizens to provide their views and comments
  • A directory of the officers and employees of the public body, along with their remuneration and any perks and privileges they receive
  • The budget of the public body, including both proposed and actual expenditure
  • Any subsidies which the public body provides, and details of beneficiaries
  • Any concessions, permits or authorizations granted by the public body, and details of recipients
  • How to obtain information from the public body
  • Name, designation and other details of the public body’s public information officer
  • Any other information that would be notified in the official Gazette
Note:  The information provided should be easy to understand and up to date.  
For this, public bodies need to set up systems and assign staff to: 
  • Collate information
  • If needed, turn this into a format or language that ordinary citizens can easily understand
  • Disseminate information on the internet and through other means, as appropriate 
This is required to be done in a timely manner, so information is always up to date.  
Status of proactive disclosure in Punjab: Top
The Government of Punjab is currently working on proactive disclosure of information.  The Punjab portal provides information about key government services and different departments at one place.  All departments are working on their individual websites in line with the RTI law, supported by the Punjab Public Management Reform Program.
International best practices in RTI implementation suggests that every public body should appoint a senior official to oversee RTI implementation; develop RTI systems and procedures; and train public officials.  
Timelines for different actions by public bodies: 
Tasks  Timeline Responsibility
Designation of Public Information Officers 60 days after the effectiveness of the Act  Relevant public body 
Proactive disclosure   As soon as possible All public bodies
Record management
To be determined by PIC All public bodies
Submission of annual RTI report to PIC
31 August  All public bodies 
Reactive disclosure of information: Top
Under the law, the public bodies are required to reactively (on request) disclose information to Pakistani citizens or registered companies in Pakistan. The information will be requested by submitting RTI application to ‘Public Information Officers’ (PIOs), designated by the public bodies.  
Note: Although, the PIOs are responsible for responding to RTI requests (and helping prepare these), other public officials are also legally responsible to:
  • Provide support to PIOs in searching the required document
  • Pass on the RTI request to PIO in case it is not addressed to him/her
  • Assist in proactive disclosure of information consistent with principles of availability, accessibility, comprehensibility and timeliness
  • Assist in maintaining and indexing public body’s records for easy retrieval
Type and form of information requested: Top
Any of following or other information – that is not exempt from disclosure -- may be requested by citizens: 
  • The laws, rules and regulations by which a public body operates
  • The organizational set up, staff numbers and grades
  • Its budget – both allocated funds and actual expenditure
  • Tenders and contract awards 
  • Services provided, process and official fees (if any) for obtaining those services 
  • Annual and other reports  
It could be memo, book, design, map, contract, representation, order notification, plans, accounts statement, project proposal, photograph, audio, video, any instrument prepared through electronic process, machine-readable documents and so on.  
Further, information could be requested in any physical form – printed, electronic or physical inspection of record or work.  
Public service information available on phone: Top
The Citizen Contact Center is providing information about different public services (land development, disaster management, WASA, higher education, health line, blood line, community service and awareness, and Hajj services) through different helplines.  Also, there is information being provided about processes, fees, and contacts of public services related with livestock, local government, board of revenue, excise and taxation, and emergency services.  
While, there is no fee for submitting RTI application, the requestor may be charged for information reproduced through photocopying, CDs etc.  Click here for the Schedule of Costs.  
Information exempt from disclosure: Top
Disclosure of some types of information could cause harm, for example to national security, the economy, Pakistan’s relations with another country, or violate someone’s right to privacy (e.g. personal bank accounts, health record).  Hence, disclosure of such information (both proactively and on-demand) is exempt under the Punjab Transparency and RTI law.  
In this regard, the law does not give an exhaustive list of exemptions, but rather defines a number of interests which must be protected.  These include:
  • National defense, security and public order
  • International relations of Pakistan
  • Legitimate privacy interests (e.g. details of someone’s bank account)
  • Legally privileged information (e.g. lawyer-client discussions)
  • Legitimate commercial interests
  • The life, health or safety of any person
  • Tackling crime or administration of justice
  • Ability of the Government to manage the economy 
  • Effective policy formulation
Any information that, if disclosed, could harm any of the above-mentioned interests is exempted under the Punjab RTI Ordinance.
Harm Test: Top
 The exemptions do not mean that you can’t access any information related to the above: only that you can’t access information which would cause harm if disclosed.
For example, the police are responsible for public order.  It would harm public order if, say, police plans for security at major events were disclosed: this information could be used by terrorists to plot attacks – hence this information is exempted.  But there is no harm caused by disclosing information about police numbers and salaries – hence this information is not exempted. 
Take another example, the Foreign Office is responsible for organizing foreign tours by Pakistan’s leaders.  It could harm Pakistan’s international relations if sensitive discussions with other leaders were disclosed – hence such information is exempted.  But there would be no harm caused in disclosing how much a foreign mission cost: indeed, this would be important to ensure that public funds are not being wasted – hence such information can and should be disclosed.
The ‘harm test’ has to be applied to decide if information related to any of the above interests can be disclosed or not.
Public Interest Over-ride: Top
Even in cases where disclosure of certain information could cause harm to one of the interests listed above, if the public interest in releasing that information is greater than the possible harm, the information has to be disclosed.  This is called the ‘public interest over-ride’ on exemptions.  
Who determines public interest override? Top
Under the Punjab Transparency and RTI Act, 2013, the Punjab Information Commission determines if the public interest in disclosure of certain information outweighs the harm caused – if yes, it can direct the concerned Public Information Officer to provide that information.
Responding to RTI application: Top
Any Pakistani citizen or a legal person can submit RTI application. They need to provide information about themselves (name and contact details), write the name of concerned public body, and explain the information they are seeking.  
The request is submitted to the Public Information Officer of concerned public body.  But if it is received by other officials, they should immediately send it to the PIO. 
The information request can be submitted on a plain piece of paper, or on Information Request Form.  
Citizens do not have to state their reasons for requesting information. 
There is no fee for submitting RTI request.  
The Public Information Officer should assist the citizens who cannot write (e.g. if illiterate or disabled) or who are facing difficulty explaining about the required information.
In the request, citizens can also indicate the form in which they want the information, e.g. a physical (printed) copy, an electronic (soft) copy, or the chance to inspect documents.  
How to respond to RTI request?  Top
After receiving RTI application, the PIO should first acknowledge its receipt to the sender (click here for receipt form), and review the application to decide (a) if the information is already proactively disclosed, (b) if it can be provided (within first 14 days or require additional time), or (c) if it is exempt from disclosure.  
Different scenarios and related actions are as follows: 
  • If the requested information is available, but may require additional time (more than 14 working days, maximum 28 days allowed) to search through documents, consult third party or to verify, the PIO should inform the applicant of the delay  
  • If the requested information is available and not exempt from disclosure, the PIO should provide it within stipulated time period, along with a certificate about authenticity of the information.  
  • The information should be provided in the requested form (in case specified in the application), provided it does not interfere with the public body’s operations or harm the document.  
  • Cost of reproducing information (photocopying, CDs) will be charged per the Schedule of Costs notified by the Punjab Information Commission. 
  • In case, the requested information cannot be provided (e.g. because it is exempted), the PIO must inform the requestor of the reasons for this decision (Click here for response form)
  • In cases, where the information or part of the information requested is with another public body, the PIO must transfer the request to the appropriate public body within seven working days of receiving it.  S/he must also inform the requestor of this in writing
  • In cases where the requested information is not held by the public body to which the request was made, and the Public Information Officer does not know which other public body/office has it, s/he should inform (in writing) the requestor that the information sought is not with the public body
RTI application procedure: Top
RTI requests should be responded per the following timelines: Top
Tasks  Timeline Responsibility
Responding to RTI requests 
Within 14 working days of receipt of application PIO
Responding to urgent RTI request
(if life or liberty of a person at stake)
Within 2 working days of receipt of application PIO
Transfer of application toanother relevant body With 7 working days of receipt of application PIO
Response to transferred RTI application
Within 14 working days of receipt of application PIO
Complaints procedure
About Public Information Commission