October 16 2013
“Citizens have a right to know and a right to information. Information is power. Citizens need information to make informed decisions and choices in life.”
These are the words of MISA-Swaziland’s national director Vuyisile Hlatshwayo, speaking at a press conference on October 16 2013 for the release of this year’s research on ‘Open & Secretive Public Institutions’.
Research was conducted earlier in the year by MISA assistant researcher Patrick Myeni. He analysed eight government and public institutions in Swaziland.
The institutions were: Deputy Prime Minister’s Office (DPM); Ministry of Education; Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs; Ministry of Sports, Youth, and Culture; Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC); Human Rights Commission; Swaziland Revenue Authority (SRA); and Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The purpose of the study was to assess the level of transparency in government and public institutions and to support MISA-Swaziland’s campaign for Access to Information legislation with solid evidence.
Swaziland Revenue Authority (SRA) was found to be the most open institution. At the press conference (which doubled as an awards ceremony) at MISA-Swaziland’s, SRA’s customer service manager Riccardo Kruger said: “This award is an indication that we are moving in the right direction… we know we haven’t arrived yet, but this is a good indication.”
Kruger said SRA tries its best to educate people so they can voluntarily ask for information, while also trying to be as proactive as possible in offering people useful and timely information.
He also thanked MISA and fesmedia, the partner in project, for completing the research.
“This exercise is very important. Information is power,” Kruger said, echoing Hlatshwayo’s words. “Keep on having such exercises, we really appreciate the feedback.”
The ministry of education was judged the most secretive institution, according to the research. However this didn’t stop the ministry from thanking MISA for the feedback and being humble in receiving the “award” for most secretive institution.
“Thank you for revealing to us, through this award, our weaknesses,” said Thomas Malangwane, under secretary in the ministry of education.
“This report is going to help us see some of our weaknesses. The position that has been revealed through this report will help us improve.”
Malangwane also echoed the SRA’s comment and said “we appreciate this report, we hope next time you will find an improvement”.
Also in attendance at the awards ceremony/press conference was Phumzile Hlophe, form UNESCO’s Swaziland national commission.
“Thank you MISA for the good work,” said Hlophe. “We are trying to link information to development, so this study will help us a lot.”
She congratulated SRA on winning the “most open institution” award — the Golden Key Award — while also congratulating the ministry of education for accepting the “most secretive award — the Padlock Award — and for vowing to use the research to become more open and responsive.
The final report, called Government secrecy in an information age, says “half the institutions did not reply to a written request for information”. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs scored the lowest in the “written request for information” category. As for responding to oral requests for information, “the Ministry of Education scored the lowest, with a score of zero”.
Websites were also considered and analysed for the research.
“On websites, all institutions, except for SRA, did not provide adequate information about the institutions. The government’s website, which all seven ministries and departments share, is relatively standard. While the standard is maintained by the government’s website, it still lacks relevant information to describe the functions and and what a particular information is about.”
This research and awards ceremony forms part of MISA’s regional campaign for Access to Information, and supports work that was done on International Right to Know Day, September 28.
The report will be online here at MISA-Swaziland’s website shortly.
For comments or queries contact:
MISA-Swaziland National Director