The State government is taking steps to revise the Manual of Office Procedures (MOP) following growing non-compliance by officials with provisions of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. All members of the State Information Commission had raised a collective demand for the move.
The existing fine of Rs.25,000 will be imposed on officials who refuse to disclose information as per the rules. Apart from that, the modified MOP will empower senior officers and appellate authorities to make confidential entries in the service book of errant officers. The entries could lead to denial of promotions and increments.
“Paying the fine will not be a burden for corrupt officials who withhold crucial information to protect individuals involved in shady deals. These individuals will pay the fine and prevent disciplinary action against the official. The fear of adverse entries in the service book, however, will force officials to act in the true spirit of the law,” said Information Commissioner M.N. Gunavardhan.
The government has also begun revising the material used in in-house training. Employees will be taught the RTI Act. The General Administration Department is spearheading the revision of the MOP and training material. The changes will be made in two months’ time. From now on, training and refresher courses will comprise sessions on the RTI Act.
“Many officials are yet to understand the importance of the Act, which upholds the public’s right to information. I was invited for a training programme for 40 officials on RTI at the Institute of Management in Government in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday. But hardly 10 officials turned up and they did not even have peripheral knowledge of the Act,” said Kochi-based RTI activist D.B. Binu.