Information Providers

 
 
Who can apply for information? Top
Any citizen of Pakistan or an organization registered in Pakistan can apply for information under the Act.
   
Who can be a public information officer (PIO)? Top
A public body can designate one or more officers of grade 16 or above as PIOs. In order to avoid the possibility of frequent changes due to transfers, promotions and retirements, the Commission has held that PIOs should be designated by post, NOT by name.
   
Can a PIO decide applications for access to information himself or he will need approval of competent authority? Top
A designated PIO is himself competent to decide any application for access to information. He is not required to seek consent or approval of his senior officer. In fact, by seeking consent or approval of his senior, he may be committing abdication of responsibility on his part and causing a conflict of interest situation for his senior, who may later be involved in deciding requests for internal review by aggrieved applicants.
   
What should a PIO do if the requested information is not held in the offices of the public body that he is responsible for? Top

If the requested information relates, wholly, to another public body or an administrative unit for which the PIO is not responsible for, he should transfer the application to the PIO in the relevant public body or administrative unit and inform the applicant accordingly.

If the requested information relates, partially, to another public body or an administrative unit for which the PIO is not responsible for, he should decide the application as far as it relates to him. For the remaining part, he should transfer the application to the PIO in the relevant public body or administrative unit and inform the applicant accordingly.
 
However, if the PIO doesn’t know and can’t find out the contact details of the PIO in the other administrative unit or public body, he should return the application to the applicant and inform him that (a) requested information doesn’t relate to the offices of his responsibility; and (b) he doesn’t know the PIO in the relevant administrative unit or the public body and, therefore, he can’t transfer the application under section 11 of the Act.
   
What are steps that a PIO should take on receipt of an application for access to information? Top
The PIO is expected to take the following steps
  • He should register the application in a separate register meant for applications received under the Act. 
  • If the application has been submitted personally or through a representative of the applicant, the PIO should acknowledge its receipt to the applicant or his representative.
  • If the application has been received by post or through email, the PIO should acknowledge its receipt by a return letter or email, and keep its record in the relevant file.
  • The PIO should review the application and evaluate whether the information can be made accessible or whether it is hit by any of the exceptions provided in section 13 of the Act. The PIO may need to first examine the requested information or records in the process of making the decision.
  • If the requested information is not hit by any of the exceptions provided in section 13 of the Act; and no payment of cost of reproducing the requested information is required in the light of Schedule of Costs notified by the Commission, the PIO should simply certify and send the requested information to the applicant. If the applicant is required to pay cost, the PIO must inform the applicant about the acceptance of his application and the amount that he has to pay prior to provision of information. The PIO must also explain how the payable cost can be paid and how the requested information can be collected by or sent to the applicant.
  • If the relevant public body holds only a part of the requested information Or if the PIO allows only a partial access, he shall supply that part of the information as per the guidelines given in (e) above. However, the PIO must communicate to the applicant in writing the reasons due to which the remaining part of the information can’t be provided. In such an instance, the PIO will also explain to the applicant the procedure of internal review and of complaint to the Commission against his decision.
  • If the PIO wholly denies the application for access to information, he shall pass a speaking order to explain the reasons of such a denial, and will send it to the applicant. In this instance too, the PIO will explain, in writing, to the applicant the procedure of internal review and of complaint to the Commission against his decision.
  • The PIO shall deposit in the relevant Bank accounts the costs of reproducing information that he may have recovered from the applicants in cash. He shall also provide a duly signed and stamped receipt of such a payment to the applicant.
   
What should a PIO do when requested information relates to the offices that he is responsible for, but he can’t provide timely access due to non-cooperation of other officers who have the relevant record in their custody? Top
Under the Act, a PIO can seek assistance from any officer in the offices or public body for which he is responsible. An officer whose assistance was sought will be deemed to be a PIO for the purpose of instant application and will be liable for any violations of the Act. The PIOs should preferably seek assistance from other officers in writing and make such requests a part of the record.
   
What are the types of information that an applicant can access? Top
An applicant can access any information from a pubic body, which is not exempt under section 13 of the Act. The exceptions relate to the records where disclosure of the information shall or is likely to cause harm to:
  • National defence or security, public order or international relations of Pakistan
  • A legitimate privacy interest, unless the person concerned has consented to disclosure of the information
  • The protection of legally privileged information or of the rules relating to breach of confidence
  • The legitimate commercial interests of a public body or a third party, including information subject to third party intellectual property rights
  • The life, health or safety of any person
  • The prevention or detection of crime, the apprehension or prosecution of offenders, or the administration of justice
  • The ability of the Government to manage the economy
  • The effective formulation of or success of a policy either by its premature disclosure or by restraining the free and frank provision of advice within the Government
The Commission, however, can even order disclosure of exempt information if it reaches the conclusion that the public interest in disclosure outweighs the protected interests.
   
What are the responsibilities of a PIO other than disposal of applications for access to information? Top
Other than disposal of applications for access to information, a PIO is responsible for the following:
  • Implementation of section 4 of the Act about proactive disclosure by disseminating maximum information through notice-boards, publications and websites
  • Creation of public awareness about the Act and how people can access information
  • Provision of assistance to the illiterate and disabled who may not be able to write down their applications
  • Making efforts for improved and more efficient management of records including through computerization and online information management systems
  • Submission of periodic reports, including an annual report, to the Commission, as per the formats or requirements of the Commission.
   
Can a PIO require an applicant to personally appear to apply for the information that he needs? Top
No, an applicant is not required to personally appear before the PIO to submit the application. He can submit his application in the following ways:
  • By Post: An application received by post, whether registered or ordinary, will be treated as validly submitted application
  • By Email: A person can apply by email if the relevant PIO has got an official e-mail address
  • Personal submission: A person or his representative can visit the office of the PIO and submit his application. In this instance, a PIO shall issue a receipt as a proof for the submission of his application
   
Is an applicant required to pay fee for obtaining information? Top
No, an applicant is not required to pay any fee at the time of submitting his application. However, if his application for access to information is accepted, the PIO may communicate to him the actual cost of reproducing the information that he had requested. However, the cost of reproducing and providing information will be calculated and should be paid strictly in accordance with the Schedule of Costs notified by the Commission.
   
How long it should take the PIO or a public body to provide the requested information? Top
Ordinarily, the PIO must decide an application and provide the requested information to the applicant within 14 working days of the receipt of application. However, the PIO can extend the duration by another 14 days if he needs to consult a third party, or if the requested information has to be collected from multiple offices or searched from extensive records. If the PIO extends the response time, he must inform the applicant about it.
If the requested information is about the life and liberty of a person, the PIO shall provide it to the applicant within 2 working days.
   
Can a PIO or public body deny access to requested information by referring to laws or rules under laws other than the Punjab Transparency and RTI Act 2013? Top
No, the Punjab Transparency and RTI Act 2013 takes precedence over all other laws. Therefore, no other law or rules can be relied upon to deny access to information sought under the Punjab Transparency and RTI Act 2013. However, access to information can be denied if it is hit by any of the exceptions mentioned in section 13 of the Act.
   
Can a PIO require applicant to personally appear to collect the requested information? Top
No, a PIO should not necessarily require the applicant to personally come to his office to collect the information. Ordinarily, the requested information should be sent out by post or, if possible, by email, or in the manner as may have been requested by the applicant. In exceptional circumstances, for example where the applicant may need to identify the record that he needs, the PIO may suggest the applicant to personally visit the office of the PIO to accurately identify the record to avert, among others, higher costs of reproducing information.