In a functioning democracy, openness and transparency are key
ingredients of accountability and trust. Ideally, open governments
encourage the public participation in decision-making.
The existence of appropriate and effective legislation can facilitate
an environment of openness; legislation such as an access
to information law which guarantees open and accountable
government and public institutions. The access to information
environment in Zambia however, has not changed significantly
as the process of enacting the draft Access to Information (ATI)
Bill is still limited to vain assurances from government officials.

Rationale and ReseaRch
The objective of this research was to determine how transparent
and open public institutions are to the general public. This
openness and transparency is with regards to how public
institutions handle and respond to requests for information from
the public. It is believed that public and government institutions
hold information on behalf of citizens, and when citizens request
that information, it should be provided to them.
This study is meant to encourage transparency and openness in
government and public institutions.

In August 2016, Zambia held a national referendum alongside its
general elections which gave hope to many champions of access
to information .A positive vote would have led to an amendment
of the Constitution to expand the Bill of Rights to include civil,
political, economic, social, cultural, environmental, and special
rights. Under civil and political rights, the expanded Bill of Rights
provided for access to information.

For this particular research eight (8) public institutions were
randomly selected. The study was conducted from 4 July – 7
August 2017 in Lusaka, Zambia.

The referendum however failed as the threshold requiring a
minimum of 50 percent of eligible voters to participate in the
referendum was not met. Many attributed this failure to a lack of
public awareness about the referendum as well as the fact that it
ran concurrently with the general elections.

The following public institutions were surveyed:
1. Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU)
2. National Housing Authority (NHA)
3. Ministry of Education (MoE)
4. Ministry of Finance(MoF)
5. Ministry of Local Government and Housing(MLGH)
6. Ministry of Tourism and Arts (MoTA)
7. Ministry of Transport and Communications (MoTC)
8. Zambia Development Agency (ZDA)

The Civil Society Coalition on Access to Information urged the
Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Chishimba Kambwili,
to speed up the adoption of the ATI Bill and to avoid tying the
tabling of the Bill in Parliament to the failed referendum.
In February 2017, the Minister of Justice, Given Lubinda
announced that the draft ATI Bill was ready to be shared with
the public and that it would be re-tabled in Parliament. When
the announcement was made, many civil society organisations
commended Government on this move but cautioned that the
passing of the Bill should be speedy as it was long overdue.
MISA Zambia also added its voice by welcoming the
pronouncement of the Ministry of Justice, but implored the
Minister to provide a roadmap for the enactment of the Bill as a
concrete sign of commitment.
The Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflections (JCTR) expressed
delight at the government’s decision to re-table the ATI Bill,
adding that JCTR will keep supporting the ATI Bill as part of
awell-run democratic governance system.
Unfortunately, Government later announced that the Bill could
not be tabled in Parliament as during its current session, there
were already too many items on the agenda.
As it stands, many Zambians and civil society organisations are
hoping the Minister of Justice will fulfil his promise to table and
enact the ATI Bill. However, the ATI Bill was not even mentioned in
the last sitting of Parliament. Nonetheless, MISA Zambia remains
hopeful and continues to push for the enactment of the Bill.

Written requests for information were submitted to all selected
institutions and their online platforms were assessed, including
their websites and social media pages.

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