What information does the Ugandan Constitution grant a citizen access to?
Article 41 of the constitution of Uganda affords any Ugandan citizen a right to access information that any government agency is in possession of – provided that release of that information compromise State security or sovereignty; or violate the privacy rights of another person.
The Access to Information Act (ATIA), 2005 and the Access to Information Regulations, 2011 acts also support the Article in promoting the right to access information, ensuring Government transparency and accountability and enabling the public to knowledgeably participate in decisions that impact them.
Section 2 of the National Environment Act (Cap 153) obliges public bodies to disclose and publish relevant data on environmental quality and resources use to the public as well as to ensure that environmental awareness is treated as an integral part of education at all levels.
Section 91 of the National Forestry and Tree Planting Act (2003) guarantees every Ugandan the right to information on Ugandan forests and related activities that are in the possession of the State, the local council, or any other related body.
Which government bodies does the The Access to Information Act (ATIA) apply to?
TIA applies specifically to all public bodies including: government ministries, departments, local governments, statutory corporations and bodies, commissions and other government organs and agencies.
To note: that both the Constitution and the ATIA exclude any obligation for civil society and the private sector from providing information to the general public.
Limitations on the right to access this information
Where the release of the information is likely to prejudice the security or sovereignty of the State, or interfere with the right to the privacy of any other person (Article 41 of the Constitution).
The Act also makes exemptions to the right to information (Sections 25-33) including the access to the records of the Cabinet and its committees, as well as the records of court proceedings before the conclusion of a case. Other exemptions are on information relating to the privacy of the person, the protection of commercial information of a third party, the protection of certain confidential information;, the protection of the safety of person and property; as well as the protection of law enforcement, defense, security and international relations.
Steps to requesting access of information
According to Section 11 of the Access to Information Act (ATIA), a person who requires information shall, in writing and through a form of request, address the information/communications officer of the public body (who is the Chief Executive of such public body), from which the requestor wants the information. Where the requestor is illiterate or disabled, he/she may make such request orally, after which the relevant information/communications officer shall transcribe the oral request, under the prescribed form.
The relevant information/communications officer is then mandated to make a decision on the said request, within 21 day and where such request is refused, reason(s) for such refusal, shall be given. (Section 16 of the ATIA). However, the information/communications officer may extend the period within which to grant access or denial, for a further period of 21 days and notify the requestor of such extension (Section 17 of the ATIA).
In terms of the Act, if an information/communications officer fails to provide the requested information within the period contemplated, the requested information is deemed to have been refused.
Where the requestor feels aggrieved in respect of being denied access to information, they may then lodge a complaint with the Chief Magistrate (Section 37 of the ATIA).