WINDHOEK: Information and Communication Technology Minister Joel Kaapanda said perceptions by members of the public and civil society organisations that the Namibian government is hesitant or unwilling to legislate a policy on access to information, is untrue.
Kaapanda made the remarks in a speech read on his behalf by the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary Mbeuta Ua-Ndjarakana during the official opening of a two-day conference on access to information that kicked off here on Tuesday.
The minister further stated that another perception that the Namibian government is dragging its feet on the implementation of access to information legislation is also not “correct, and untrue”.
“Access to information goes hand-in-hand with some major administrative arrangements, which must facilitate legislated access. Having an Act on Access to Information is not enough to ensure public access to information.
Proper filing and retrieval systems have to be in place to ensure that requested information can be found and availed. In order to facilitate legislation on access to information, the Office of Prime Minister Nahas Angula has embarked on an electronic documentation and records-management system in all ministries, Government-owned offices and State-owned institutions. This project is in an advanced stage, and several Government-owned institutions are already using the system to do better information and management retrieval”, explained the Minister.
Other administrative arrangements on the legislation on access to information also involve decisions on where the body that will oversee access to information will be accommodated, what its structure should look like as well as the financial implications.
The Minister stressed that “as a responsible Government, we decided not to reinvent the wheel, but rather to learn from best practices, and to approach access to information in a systematic and methodical manner”.
The participants and invited foreign guests were further told that groundwork has already been done as far as legislation on access to information is concerned.
“However, until such a time that the Namibian government is convinced that the accompanying administrative processes are in place, it will not just jump into legislating Access to Information, just for the sake of having the legislation on its books”, charged the Minister.
The two-day conference on access to information brings together experts in media, academia, media practitioners as well as representatives from both the private and public sectors to discuss access to information in the national context.
The conference will also help to provide participants with an overview of current developments and best practices on access to information in the Southern African region and internationally.
It ends on Wednesday.