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HomeYour CountyKakamegaOmbudsman to expose public servants who deny Kenyans information

Ombudsman to expose public servants who deny Kenyans information

The Commission on Administrative Justice (Office of the Ombudsman) has warned that it will prepare a list of shame against public officers who withhold information meant for public consumption.

The Commission noted that the Government is a trustee to Kenyans and acts as a custodian to collect, package, store, retrieve and disseminate information to Kenyans whenever they make a request.

Article 35 of the Constitution stipulates that every Citizen has a right of access to information held by the state.

Speaking in Kakamega on Tuesday, the Vice Chairperson of the Commission Washington Opiyo said they have developed a tool to monitor how government offices, including county governments, disclose information to the public.

The Commission on Administrative Justice( Office of Ombudsman) taskforce in a group photo with stakeholders from the media and civil society

Opiyop said the commission will monitor Websites and Libraries where information is stored and how it is relayed to the public and whether they have proper channels to relay information.

He said the Commission will also conduct spot checks in public offices to see how they comply with the Access to Information Act.

The Commissioner said the Ombudsman is carrying out Public Participation forums on access to information (general) regulations 2021 in counties across the country.

Yesterday, the Commission engaged stakeholders composed of Journalists and the Civil Society in Kakamega County on access to information regulations.

Opiyo said that though some public officers give an excuse that they are barred by the Official Secrets Act, 1968 of public servants, there are provisions on what to keep secret and what is meant for the public.

“We are working with other stakeholders to train and enlighten public officers and institutions on the Access to Information Act,” he said.

So far, the Commission has trained over 4,000 public servants on access to information and it has sent two reports on implementation of access to information to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Opiyo says a research conducted by the commission shows that 80 percent of public institutions are not disclosing information to the public in the country.

He noted as a result they have written Memorandum of Understanding (MOUs) with the Council of Governors (COG) to ensure public servants in counties embrace a culture of open governance.

“We want to discard a culture of secrecy that some public officers have adopted,” he said.

The Commission has therefore urged public institutions to digitize their records and make them up to date for easy retrieval when needed. It also requires Public institutions to submit reports on information they have disclosed to the public.

It says that those officers who will fail to disclose information to the public will be reported to the National Assembly and the Senate.

The Commission Vice-chairperson also said the commission is working on the whistleblower Bill which once enacted will protect whistleblowers.

The Public has also been urged to report to the commission when they are denied information.

Under Article 47 of the 2010 Kenyan Constitution, every Kenyan has a right to be given reasons for any administrative action taken against them and the commission observes that residents should be given reasons why some information will not be disclosed.

“Public institutions should respond within 21 days to requested information,” he said.

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