Implemented in partnership with Association for Democracy in the Maldives (ADM), RTI37 is a project to:
Study state compliance to Section 37 of the Right to Information Act that outlines twelve areas of proactive disclosure
Observe how state institutes respond to formal Right to Information Requests
Examine the level of implementation of government pledges in relation to the Right to Information outlined in the government's Strategic Action Plan
Respondents of this study comprise a sample of 73 state institutes from the:
Section 37 of the Right to Information Act (law number 1/2014) of the Republic of Maldives states:
“for the purpose of public interest, state institutes shall publish the following information at least annually, in an easily accessible manner”
The Section outlines twelve areas of information mandated to be proactively disclosed, listed under thirteen subsections. The websites and publications of the selected institutes were assessed twice over the course of the project: an initial review at the beginning of the project in November 2021, and a final review at the end in June 2022.
|#||Information Required to be Proactively Disclosed||Initial Review - Nov 2021||Final Review - Jun 2022||Increase|
|1||Details of the functions, responsibilities, structure and duties of the State Institute||67.80%||77.40%||9.60%|
|2||Details of direct services provided or being provided to the public||68.50%||83.60%||15.10%|
|3||The rules, regulations, policies, principles and norms used by the State Institute for discharging its responsibilities||58.20%||63.00%||4.80%|
|4||The responsibilities and duties of high ranking officials of the State Institute, their powers and scope of discretion, and procedure followed in decision making within that scope||36.30%||56.20%||19.90%|
|5||The budget allocated to the State Institute, indicating the particulars of all plans, proposed expenditures and details of disbursements made||27.40%||45.20%||17.80%|
|6||The individual remuneration and benefits received by all the employees of the State Institute||24.70%||44.50%||19.90%|
|7||Information held or maintained by the State Institute, and the nature of its general publications, together with information on the procedure to follow to request for information||39.00%||44.50%||5.50%|
|8||Easily comprehensible details of how documents are managed||0.00%||15.10%||15.10%|
|9||Details of the mechanism of lodging a complaint at the State Institute in connection to a matter undertaken by that office, and details of the number of complaints received thus far||10.30%||30.10%||19.90%|
|10||The manner in which suggestions and criticisms on decision-making can be exercised by the public and influenced in relation to the policies of those functions carried out by the State Institute;||2.70%||19.20%||16.40%|
|11||The stages and procedure followed in the decision making process of the State Institute, and the mechanisms for supervision and accountability||6.20%||26.00%||19.90%|
|12||Details of decisions taken that would affect the public and the reasons for those decisions, their implications and details of their background||30.10%||60.30%||30.10%|
The average proactive disclosure rate by different types of institutes are summarized in the table below:
|Institute Type||Initial Review - Nov 2021||Final Review - Jun 2022||Increase|
Section 7 of the Right to Information (RTI) Act states:
“where a request for access to information is made under this Act, action on the request must be taken as promptly as possible and such access must be provided as soon as may be practicable”
The RTI Act outlines deadlines for requests and redress mechanisms prescribed under the Act:
Stage 1. Information Officer: 21 days with a possible additional 14 day extension.
MAXIMUM 35 DAYS
Stage 2. Review Committee: 30 days with a possible additional 15 day extension.
MAXIMUM 45 DAYS
Stage 3. Information Commissioner's Office: 30 days with a possible additional 15 day extension.
MAXIMUM 45 DAYS
Stage 4. High Court: the decision of the Information Commissioner can be appealed within 10 days from the date the decision was made or should have been made.
All 73 respondents of the study received three information requests under the Right to Information Act, each integrating the twelve areas of mandatory proactive disclosure outlined in the law. The study followed redress procedures provided by the law for the review of unsatisfactory disclosure through the individual Review Committees at respondent institutes and the challenge of the lack of or unsatisfactory information provided, at the Information Commissioner's Office (ICOM). This study did not pursue cases beyond the ICOM to the courts.
|RTI Batch 1||RTI Batch 2||RTI Batch 3||OVERALL|
|Requests acknowledged with written receipt||43.8%||80.2%||79.5%||68.0%|
|Average no. of days for receipt||15||8||4||8|
|Cases submitted to ICOM due to no response||39.7%||9.59%||5.48%||18.26%|
|Responses received prior to deadline||48.0%||58.9%||69.9%||58.9%|
|Average no. of days for response||30||24||28||27|
|Review Committee submissions required||9.60%||8.20%||5.50%||7.76%|
|Review decisions received prior to deadline||42.9%||66.7%||75.0%||58.8%|
|Average no. of days for review||29||35||31||32|
|ICOM submissions required||45.2%||11.0%||8.2%||21.5%|
|ICOM cases concluded prior to deadline||97.0%||100%||100%||97.9%|
|Average no. of days for ICOM decision||16||20||25||18|
|Average no. of days to receive information||35||29||31||32|
The Government’s Strategic Action Plan (SAP) 2019 – 2023 provides a detailed development agenda across five priority areas for the administration headed by President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. Each priority area includes several targets, strategies, and actions, in addition to a timeline and a list of implementing agencies.
All of the actions monitored under the project related to increased transparency and access to information was listed under Priority area 5: Good Governance of the SAP.
The actions monitored under the project are:
|Action||Timeline||Lead Implementing Agency||Other Implementing Agencies|
|1.2a: Adopt Open Data policy for all parliamentary information in order to increase transparency of parliamentary processes and procedure (including plenary deliberations and committee meetings) to enable greater access and participation by the public and media||2020 - 2022||People’s Majlis||AGO, PO, NDC, ICOM|
|2.2d: Develop centralised and integrated information management systems to make information readily available||2020 - 2023||National Data Centre||ICOM, PO, CSC, DJA, MoCST, CTO, Independent Institutions|
|2.2e: Establish effective knowledge management systems and mechanism in state institutions including integrated document and records management systems||2020 - 2023||National Data Centre||ICOM, PO, CSC, DJA, NA, CTO, Independent Institutions|
|2.2f: Develop information classification and handling standards||2020 - 2023||Information Commissioner’s Office||PO, NDC, CSC, DJA,NA, CTO, Independent Institutions|
|2.2g: Review the Right to Information Act to close the gaps that institutions use for non-disclosure or delay in sharing of information||2019 - 2021||Attorney General’s Office||PO, NDC, CSC, DJA,NA, CTO, Independent Institutions|
Subsection 5.4: Accountable State outlined policies to improve parliamentary oversight and law-making. A RTI request was submitted to the People’s Majlis, requesting for details on the progress made in the implementation of this action. In response, the People’s Majlis listed four key actions that have been completed to fulfil the obligations of this strategic action:
Subsection 5.5: Independent Institutions and Public Service Reform seeks to implement an effective accountability framework for independent institutions. Actions in this subsection pertain to legislative changes, obligatory submissions as well as civil service reform, through increased human resource capacity building, application of technology and management tools.
The National Data Center – the lead implementing agency for these actions has not yet been established. Therefore RTI requests for progress in the implementation of these actions were submitted to several institutions listed as other implementing agencies. The Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Technology (MoECCT), which was formed in May 2021 after the Ministry of Communications, Science and Technology (MoCST) was dissolved and their functions transferred, was identified by several institutes as the de-facto lead implementing agency for the actions. In their response to the RTI request, the ministry identified itself as the party responsible for delivering the Digital Development Action Plan (DDAP) constituting priorities in the National Resilience and Recovery Plan (NRR) which superseded the SAP. While the DDAP has not been made available to the public, the ministry sent information about several ongoing projects under the SAP policy to create a modern public administration system
ICOM was listed as the lead implementing agency for this one action in the SAP, and a request was submitted to the office for progress on the implementation of this action. In response, ICOM stated that a first draft of the information classification and handling standards had been formulated, and was in the process of gathering feedback from other implementing agencies and stakeholders. The office further stated that they were on track to complete the action by 2023 as planned.
The final action monitored in the SAP was directly related to the Right to Information regime in the Maldives. Unlike all the other actions that were monitored under the SAP, this action was listed to have been concluded by the time the project monitoring activities were carried out. The People’s Majlis, in their response, had noted that a new draft of the RTI Act had not been submitted to parliament and the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) confirmed that the action had not been completed, stating that they planned to complete the review by the end of 2022.
It is observed that no other action monitored from the SAP under transparency and access to information is to be completed within the first four years of the administration term, but rather in the election year itself, according to the schedule of implementation seen on the action plan.