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access to information act yet to be implemented


The information and justice ministries are currently drafting regulations for the Access to Information (ATI) Act which must be finalised before thenew law will come into operaton.

This comes after president Hage Geingob signed the bill, passed by the National Assembly, into law on 29 November 2022. “It is a process that will include some consultations,” information minister Peya Mushelenga said yesterday.

After the final draft is submitted to the attorney general, Festus Mbandeka, for certification, the act will become operational on the date determined by him, Mushelenga said.

ATI ACT

Public and private entities could face court when they refuse to provide information, according to the new Access to Information Act.

First tabled in the National Assembly in 2020, the act was passed in parliament last June.

“Information holders are subject to the authority of the information commissioner in all matters relating to access to information; “Any refusal to disclose information is subject to internal review, appeal and judicial review,” reads the new act gazetted last month.

Government offices, ministries and agencies (OMAs) are required to release information in advance.

The head of every OMA and private entity must appoint an information officer and if they fail to do so, they will serve in that role. “A public entity or private entity must assist the information commissioner in the course of any application, investigation or appeal under this act to the best of its abilities,” reads the act. Any person who commits an offence is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding N$100 000 or imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years, or to both such fine and such imprisonment, reads the act.

INFORMATION HEAD

An information commissioner and their deputy are expected to be appointed to promote, monitor and protect the right of access to information in Namibia. The commissioner is appointed by the president after a selection committee nominates two to three candidates for the National Assembly to approve one. The selection committee is made up of the chairperson of the Public Service Commission, chairperson of the council of the Law Society of Namibia, information executive director, chief executive officer of the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia and a person nominated by non-governmental organisations that deal with media laws.

This committee has been criticised by the Access to Information in Namibia (Action) Coalition, that proposed that the media ombudsman should be an additional member of the selection committee.

“Which would also provide a better government-civil society balance. We further propose that interviews of short-listed candidates for information commissioner should take place in public,” the coalition stated. The coalition also wants the private entity to be defined and discussed with the Namibian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Namibian Employers Federation. “To ensure that it will be practically workable,” they said before.





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