Mmegi Online :: Info dept gets MISA's most secretive dept award
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Last Updated
Friday 17 August 2018, 13:30 pm.
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Info dept gets MISA's most secretive dept award

The Department of Information Services has been awarded the 2012 Golden Lock Award, for being the most secretive government department.
By GOTHATAONE MOENG
Staff Writer
(GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Info dept gets MISA's most secretive dept award








The department is among eight state departments surveyed by the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)-Botswana between June 19-27 to assess how accessible and transparent local government institutions are.

The other departments surveyed are Department of Roads Transport and Safety (DRTS),  Ministry of Health (MoH), Ministry of Education and Skills Development (MoESD), Ministry of Lands and Housing (MLH), Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism (MEWT), Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs (MLHA) and Ministry of Infrastructure, Science and Technology (MIST).

The Golden Lock Award is usually awarded alongside the Golden Key award for the most transparent department to coincide with the commemoration of International Right To Know Day.  However, MISA-Botswana director Phenyo Butale said his organisation struggled to find an organisation they could award for being the most transparent.

In their "Government Secrecy in an Information Age: 2012 Report on the Most Open and Secretive Government Institutions in Botswana", MISA explains that the survey stemmed out of a need to see how proactive these institutions are in availing information to the public. 

The survey was undertaken by evaluating the chosen institutions' websites to determine the accessibility of public information as well as the submission of oral and written reports in order to determine the ease with which public information is obtained from government and public institutions.

Information Services was found to be the most secretive because the department's website is "poorly structured and contains almost no relevant public information," the report says. MISA-Botswana says that the department "denied access to reasonable information

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requests and acted with high level of secrecy".

In their key findings, MISA-Botswana found that all eight institutions surveyed denied access to their request for information. "Despite a follow-up seven days after requesting information, none of the institutions responded."Not a single institution acknowledged receipt of the request before the following-up. Attempts to follow up met with the response that information could not be released if they weren't aware of the nature of organisation or what the information was going to be used for," the report reads.

Keynote speaker on the day Alice Mogwe, who is the director of Ditshwanelo - The Botswana Centre For Human Rights who described access to information as a fundamental human right, said there needs to be a commitment to a national human rights strategy which is linked to national development principles and priorities.

"What can be done about our culture of secrecy, non-communication and silence in the public domain. How do we embed a culture of transparency and accountability within our collective understanding of good governance?" she asked. 

She added that the public also needs to recognise that there may also be more fundamental administrative reasons for the constrained access to information. In 2011, Botswana was named 'the most secretive country in Southern Africa' by MISA. In 2012, the IDASA Democracy Index has stated that 'Botswana is lagging behind in realising that all its citizens are given a voice, are given information and that citizens can take part in the running of their country.

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