Windhoek-The Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Tjekero Tweya, yesterday revealed that Cabinet approved in principle the Access to Information Bill, 2017, but denied hastily pushing through the Bill just because it is on his performance contract.
His reaction follows criticism that the information minister hurried to have the Bill passed, without proper consultation, as it’s part of his performance contract.
Tweya allayed such claims, saying the Bill was subjected to public consultation that took an entire week last year.
Tweya at a Cabinet briefing for the media yesterday notified the nation that the Bill had been referred to the Cabinet Committee on Legislation for scrutiny before he tabled it in parliament.
He said the reason why it was on his performance appraisal was for him to initiate the process to get the law into place but by following the correct channels.
He explained that he has done so and will continue to do so, adding that to make a law is a long process.
Just last month, the draft of the Electronic Transactions and Cyber Crime Bill which was passed by the Cabinet Committee on Legislation, certified by the Office of the Attorney General and submitted to parliament, was withdrawn from the House by Tweya for further public consultation following a public outcry. In his defence, Tweya noted that in the absence of public views he had no choice but to go ahead with whatever input he had received, therefore he started the process which closed on June 16.
“If you didn’t make use of the time, what more can the government and I as a minister do? If you didn’t have the document, it’s something else. But you have the document and the time. So it’s not really about performance appraisal – I must now get it done, that’s not the issue. The issue is it has seen the light to become a law and it must follow this democratic process,” he reacted.
According to him, it’s not merely a matter that items are on his performance appraisal that they must just be passed.
“No, it’s a piece of legislation that is meant for us, what we want that piece of legislation to address. If it takes five years for consultation, do not crucify this fellow here [referring to himself] or anybody who will be sitting in this place and say there is no law because you are doing nothing. I am not so much concerned about the time frame but my concern is that the process has started and everyone who has input should come and give it,” he said.
The Electronic Transactions and Cyber Crime Bill aims at promoting e-governance, services and electronic commerce and communications with the public and private bodies, institutions and citizens.
It also aims to develop a safe, secure and effective environment for the consumer, business and public agencies or bodies to conduct and use electronic transactions.
He also said the Access to Information Bill will also address the cost of data aspects, to regulate how people are charged by service providers.
However, he clarified the Bill will not determine the exact rates to be charged but will give guidelines that providers should not use the cost to deny the public information.
The ministry during the last financial year drafted bills on access to information, social media use policy and a communication plan, as well as reviewed issues around national information as per the Harambee Prosperity Plan’s pillar of Effective Governance and Service Delivery.