Windhoek — The Minister of Information and Communication Technology (MICT) Tjekero Tweya has labelled the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) report entitled 'Access Denied,' as a 'malicious, vexatious and irresponsible' publication crafted to portray the country in bad light.
The IPPR report released last year alleged access to information in Namibia is still a nightmare as government offices, ministries and agencies continue to withhold information meant for public consumption even upon request.
Addressing the media on Tuesday, Tweya said based on a fact-finding mission by his officials, close to 80 percent of the information requested by IPPR is already in the public domain and is easily accessible; whilst most of it is available at ministries and on state agencies' websites; therefore the report is misleading and devoid of any truth.
"It is disheartening for a reputable research institution such as IPPR to misinform the public in such a manner. We need to strive to not always opt for malicious, vexatious and irresponsible publications to portray the country in a bad light. One wonders what the motive was to carry out research with no clear purpose and no raw data supporting the research findings," stated the information minister.
According to the discredited IPPR report out of 20 ministries and government agencies approached or requested to provide information by IPPR, 80 percent of these institutions did not respond or could not provide the information that was requested. It further claimed that nearly 60 percent of the institutions that responded could not provide sufficient information while roughly 85 percent of public enterprises approached for information were unresponsive.
The IPPR Access Denied Report also claimed out of the 14 regions approached only one region responded with the information requested and within a reasonable time.
However Tweya said based on the MICT fact finding investigation, public relations officers (who are the access points of all government ministries, offices and agencies), whom the ministry contacted in this regard indicated that they did not receive queries from the IPPR research team.
"Upon enquiry by the ministry as to whom the IPPR contacted to obtain information on government programmes and activities, IPPR came short of providing the list of names of those officials they have contacted. This made it difficult for the ministry to follow up and acquire from responsible officials why public information was withheld," he said. Tweya said as per the Access Denied report most of the ministries were reached through the permanent secretary offices, which made it exceptionally hard for the ministry to identify the person who received such queries.
"We feel that this was done deliberately to suit their malicious agenda," Tweya said.
He said as part of government's efforts to making information accessible to the public; MICT introduced a Communication Plan aimed at aligning the functions of public relations officers to their core function of information dissemination in accordance to the Harambee Prosperity Plan.
Apart from that the information ministry also developed a Social Media Use Policy for all government PROs to have access to and deploy relevant social media tools responsibly across the public service. The minister said the government is also in the process of finalising the drafting of the National Information Policy and Access to Information Bill.
The two legal documents are expected to be tabled in parliament this year.
"It was therefore shocking to hear that despite all these efforts, many government institutions are still not making information accessible to the public as it was alleged by IPPR," said Tweya.
Responding to the Minister's reaction, IPPR director, Graham Hopwood maintained the report showed high levels of non-responsiveness from the private sector and even civil society and was not simply aimed at exposing problems in government when it comes to access to information.
"There is no point in denying that access to information is problematic across different sectors of Namibian society. Improving access to information is something we can all work on together - in the spirit of Harambee - to ensure the public have the information they need," Hopwood said.