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Afghanistan

Strengthen the Information Mechanism in 60 Governmental Agencies (AF0011)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Afghanistan Action Plan 2017-2019

Action Plan Cycle: 2017

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: Ministry of Information and Culture (MoIC)

Support Institution(s): 60 governmental agencies and Monitoring Commission on Access to Information, Civil society, media and UNESCO Office in Kabul

Policy Areas

Access to Information, Capacity Building, E-Government, Public Participation, Records Management, Right to Information, Social Accountability

IRM Review

IRM Report: Afghanistan Implementation Report 2017-2019, Afghanistan Design Report 2017-2019

Starred: No

Early Results: Marginal

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information , Civic Participation

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Evaluation of information units, preparing the plan to strengthen the Information Mechanism in 60
governmental agencies and its implementation
January 2018 - August 2019
Lead implementing agency/actor Ministry of Information and Culture (MoIC)
Commitment Description
What it the public problem that
the commitment will address?
According to the reports published by the Monitoring Commission on
Access to Information, information units have been established in 60
government agencies at national level in Afghanistan. However, these
units are said to be ineffective, as they offer limited access to digital
forms of information due to lack of a comprehensive information
database, deficient documentations system and prolonged waiting
periods to attain requested information.
Therefore, ineffectiveness of the existing information units has led to
continued lack of public and media access to information, undermining
transparency, accountability and responsiveness in governmental
agencies.
What is the commitment? In order to address the mentioned challenges MoIC is intended to 1)
assess the capacities at these units; 2) formulate a capacity development
plan with a purpose to enhance the capacity of these units to deliver their
mandate and 3) to implement the capacity development plan in the MoIC
and Ministry of Mines and Petroleum, Independent Administrative
Reform and Civil Service Commission, and Ministry of Transport as a
pilot project.
It is expected that the implementation of this commitment will ensure
that there is a well-functioning digital and manual system of information
management and dissemination in place. This will ultimately ensure
existence of digitalized data, smooth processing of public requests and
easy public access to the data within the aforementioned ministries.
How will the commitment
contribute to solve the public
problem?
The commitment will enable journalists, research organizations, CSOs
and related agencies to share their insights for improving the plan.
The digitalization of information management within the agencies will
expedite the dissemination of information ensuring that the public gains
easy and timely access to all relevant information.
Another advantage associated with the digitalization of information is
that it will ensure all data requests are formally documented and lodged.
Why is this commitment relevant
to OGP values?
This commitment is relevant to Open Government Partnership values
because it is inclusive of public participation. Moreover, the
implementation of this commitment will enhance public access to
accurate information thereby promoting accountability and transparency
in the public sector.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

11. Evaluation of information units in 60 governmental agencies and its implementation

Language of the commitment as it appears in the action plan:

“According to the reports published by the Monitoring Commission on Access to Information, information units have been established in 60 government agencies at national level in Afghanistan. However, these units are said to be ineffective, as they offer limited access to digital forms of information due to lack of a comprehensive information database, deficient documentations system and prolonged waiting periods to attain requested information.

Therefore, ineffectiveness of the existing information units has led to continued lack of public and media access to information, undermining transparency, accountability and responsiveness in governmental agencies.

In order to address the mentioned challenges MoIC is intended to 1) assess the capacities at these units; 2) formulate a capacity development plan with a purpose to enhance the capacity of these units to deliver their mandate and 3) to implement the capacity development plan in the MoIC and Ministry of Mines and Petroleum, Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission, and Ministry of Transport as a pilot project.

Milestone activities and verifiable deliverables
  • MoIC establishes the Information Units Reform Panel (IURP) consisting of CSO’s who are member of Oversight Commission on Access to Information and MoIC’s employees to develop a plan and tools to inform the methodology of the assessment that will be carried out in the information units.
  • IURP carries out the assessment in 60 information units and produces the findings of the report. The findings of assessment will be publicized and made available via MoIC website.
  • IURP creates a capacity development program based on the findings of the assessment. The capacity development program will be made available via MoIC website.
  • The capacity development program is implemented within the targeted ministries with the technical support of IURP.
  • IURP produces a lessons learned report on the implementation of the program in the targeted ministries. The report will be shared with all information units and stakeholders as well as made available via MoIC website.”

Start Date: January 2018

End Date: August 2019

Editorial Note: This is a partial version of the commitment text. For the full commitment text from the Afghanistan National Action Plan see: https://www.opengovpartnership.org/commitment/11-strengthen-information-mechanism-60-governmental-agencies

Context and Objectives

This commitment aims to establish the Information Units Reform Panel (IURP) consisting of CSO’s and government representatives in order to a) evaluate the capacity of the 60 information units; b) design a capacity development plan; and c) implement the plan as a pilot project in four governmental entities.

Although 60 information units have been established within various governmental agencies, assessments show that they are ineffective. This restrains public and media’s access to information, undermines transparency, accountability and responsiveness in governmental agencies. [110]

Following Article 50 of the Afghan Constitution and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Afghanistan passed the Law on Access to Information on 23 December 2014.  The law requires all government offices to publish information on contracts, policies, etc., provide information upon request within 10 business days, as well as a mechanism for engaging with the public. Article 16 concerns the establishment of the Monitoring Commission on Access to Information (the Commission), to be composed of 11 members from government, as well as CSOs, the private sector, and political parties. Sub-national Commissions are also intended to be established in provinces. [111] According to the Law and following the establishment of the Commission, the Ministry of Culture and Information (MoCI), in coordination with the Commission, established 60 information units within various government entities in Kabul province. These information units, however, have been reported to be ineffective due to lack of competence and access to technology. For example, little professional capacity exists as to how to convey information to the public, including media, or how to digitally preserve information. Moreover, much of the work in such information unites are still performed on paper. [112]

Per the commitment text, MoCI will establish an Information Units Reform Panel (IURP), which will consist of members drawn from both government and CSO’s. IURP will assess 60 information units, develop a capacity development plan based on findings of the assessment, and implement the capacity development plan in all four targeted ministries as a pilot project for this action plan. The assessment [113] will look at whether: a) the unit/s actually exist; b) whether they have their own office; c) whether they are equipped with relevant technology such as computers and database programs; d) whether they have a person in charge who can be held accountable; e) whether they have the capacity to implement the law of access to information; and f) do they regularly provide reports. [114] The four state agencies, which are MoIC, Ministry of Mines and Petroleum, Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission, and Ministry of Transport, have been selected by the monitoring Commission based on: a) limited capacity to administer the law; and b) high demand by people to access information, including vacancy announcements.

This commitment is relevant to the OGP value of civic participation because of the active role CSOs will play in the work of the IURP. Also, it is relevant to access to information because the IURP will publish a report with findings from the assessment of 60 different information units’ capacities. Additionally, the capacity development program based on the report’s findings will be made available on the MoIC website and publicized, as well as a lessons learned report on the implementation of the program will be made available not only to OGP stakeholders but also the public at large. The activities and milestones of the commitment are specific enough to be meaningfully verifiable.

The IRM Researcher considers this commitment of minor potential impact because, as designed, while it will assess the information units of 60 government departments, it will only enhance the capacity of information units in four targeted governmental agencies in comparison to the 60 information units, which is a minor internal improvement that does not go beyond capacity building. The commitment could have a transformative potential impact if the range of government entities subject to the capacity development plan were increased. Furthermore, in its current design, it does not include a public participation mechanism where citizens and media could file their complaints and hold the state publicly accountable. Although the Access to Information Law does provide citizens with this opportunity, measures related to accountability as a result of access to information could further be bolstered if the commitment too incorporates such a mechanism.

Next steps

The IRM Researcher suggests that the decision to carry over this commitment to the next action plan depends on the content and findings of the final report that the IURP will produce. In the interim, the IRM Researcher suggests the following:

  • MSF could carefully examine the IURP findings and lesson learned report before making its decision on whether this commitment should be continued on to the next OGP Action Plan.
  • Considering the Afghan government’s low capacity to provide information to citizens, [115] international consultants, with similar contexts who have been able to undertake successful measures in their own countries, can be invited to Afghanistan to train and share their experiences with Afghan officials and CSOs. The government official interviewed by the IRM researcher also raised this as an important step in the success of their work for this commitment. [116] As an example, the IRM researcher refers the readers to a grassroots case in Southern Mexico where social and civic movements claimed their right to information as a tool to hold the state accountable. [117] The focus here is on capacity building as the provision of information is a relatively new field in Afghanistan and leveraging the success of others through peer exchange and learning. Additionally, MoCI could invite specialists from the Afghanistan Center at Kabul University or the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit to conduct trainings on digital dissemination of information. Both entities have substantial experience in archiving and making available digital information.
  • MoCI could develop a section on its website on the IURP where all the relevant activities and documents related to the commitment can become centralized and more easily accessible to the public.
[110] National Action Plan, Open Government Partnership Afghanistan (OGPA), 2018-2019. Accessed on January 22, 2019, from https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Afghanistan_Action-Plan_2017-2019_EN_UPDATED.pdf
[111] IRoA, Ministry of Justice. (23 December 2014). The Law on Access to Information. Retrieved on November 28, 2018, from http://moj.gov.af/content/files/OfficialGazette/01101/OG_01156.pdf
[112] Personal interview, Policy and Planning Director, Ministry of Culture and Information, 24 October 2018, Kabul.
[113] A similar assessment has been published at the office of MoCI, but it is not clear if was carried out as part of this deliverable or not. The document is not dated. Retrieved on November 28, 2018, From http://moic.gov.af/Content/files/گزارش%20نهایی%20مرحله%20ارزیابی%20مراجع%20مسوول%20اطلاع%20رسانی%20در%2058%20اداره.pdf
[114] Personal interview, Policy and Planning Director, Ministry of Culture and Information, 24 October 2018, Kabul.
[115] Ibid.
[116] Ibid.
[117] Fox, J., Garcia Jimenez, C. and Haight, L. (2009). Rural Democratization in Mexico’s Deep South: Grassroots Right-to-Know Campaigns in Guerrero. The Journal of Peasant Studies, Volume 36, No. 2, Pages 271-298. Retrieved on 29 January, 2019, from https://www.right2info.org/resources/publications/grassroots-r2k-mexico

IRM End of Term Status Summary

11. Evaluation of Information Units in 60 Governmental Agencies and Its Implementation

Language of the commitment as it appears in the action plan:

 “According to the reports published by the Monitoring Commission on Access to Information, information units have been established in 60 government agencies at national level in Afghanistan. However, these units are said to be ineffective, as they offer limited access to digital forms of information due to lack of a comprehensive information database, deficient documentations system and prolonged waiting periods to attain requested information.

“Therefore, ineffectiveness of the existing information units has led to continued lack of public and media access to information, undermining transparency, accountability and responsiveness in governmental agencies.

“In order to address the mentioned challenges MoIC is intended to 1) assess the capacities at these units; 2) formulate a capacity development plan with a purpose to enhance the capacity of these units to deliver their mandate and 3) to implement the capacity development plan in the MoIC and Ministry of Mines and Petroleum, Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission, and Ministry of Transport as a pilot project.”

Milestones:

  1. MoIC establishes the Information Units Reform Panel (IURP) consisting of CSO’s who are member of Oversight Commission on Access to Information and MoIC’s employees to develop a plan and tools to inform the methodology of the assessment that will be carried out in the information units.
  2. IURP carries out the assessment in 60 information units and produces the findings of the report. The findings of assessment will be publicized and made available via MoIC website.
  3. IURP creates a capacity development program based on the findings of the assessment. The capacity development program will be made available via MoIC website.
  4. The capacity development program is implemented within the targeted ministries with the technical support of IURP.
  5. IURP produces a lessons learned report on the implementation of the program in the targeted ministries. The report will be shared with all information units and stakeholders as well as made available via MoIC website.

Editorial Note: This is a partial version of the commitment text. For the full commitment text from the Afghanistan national action plan see: https://www.opengovpartnership.org/documents/afghanistan-action-plan-2017-2019/

IRM Design Report Assessment

IRM Implementation Report Assessment

●       Verifiable: Yes

●       Relevant: Yes

Access to Information

Civic Participation

●       Potential impact: Minor

●         Completion: Substantial

●          Did it Open Government? Marginal

This commitment sought to improve the capacity of information units (IUs) established in 60 governmental agencies when Afghanistan passed the Law on Access to Information in 2014. Prior to this commitment, the IUs were widely considered ineffective due to lack of access to technology and required skills and competency. The commitment aimed to establish an Information Units Reform Panel (IURP) consisting of government and CSOs representatives who would evaluate the IUs and develop a capacity development plan. [135]

This commitment was substantially complete at the end of the action plan implementation period. The IURP was established with seven members, two of which belonged to CSOs and one of which belonged to the media. [136] The IURP proceeded to develop a questionnaire to conduct its assessment of the 60 IUs. Six people across three committees carried out the assessment, with only one representative from civil society. According to the technical advisor of the Independent Commission on Access to Information, since the process called for “voluntary participation of CSOs, they did not show much interest.” [137]

The IURP mainly spoke with individuals in charge of the IUs at the various agencies, assessing their capacity as well as their needs. Based on the IURP’s assessment, [138] the seven-member panel drafted a capacity development plan, according to which the Independent Commission on Access to Information and CSOs carried out trainings for IU leaders. The training participants also included spokespersons of ministries and those in charge of publications and public outreach. The trainings covered the Law on Access to Information, citizens’ access to information forms, and effective ways to respond to citizens’ requests. [139]

As a result of this commitment, although outside its immediate scope, the Independent Commission on Access to Information, in collaboration with the Civil Service Reform Commission and civil society, decided that each public entity must contain an IU in its 2020 structure, including a full-time employee whose job would be to provide information to citizens. In addition, all ministries would update their websites with relevant information, in accordance with Article 15 of the Law on Access to Information. [140]

At the time the OGP action plan was developed, this commitment fell under the Ministry of Information and Culture (MoIC), where the Independent Commission on Access to Information was then based. However, as of January 2019 the commission is an independent entity, with five commissioners, appointed by the president, and 51 total members. These members currently operate in seven provinces, and the government intends to expand the commission’s reach. [141] In an OGP Forum meeting, Integrity Watch Afghanistan (IWA), a civil society organization, suggested that this commitment be formally transferred from the MoIC to the commission. [142] OGP Afghanistan held several meetings with the minister of culture and information and the former head of the commission in this regard.

Since March 2019, the new commission assumed responsibility for the implementation of this commitment. [143] As the members of the commission were newly appointed, operations faced initial challenges. [144] However, according to a CSO representative, the transfer of responsibility to the commission was an overall positive development, as it appears to have encouraged the IURP to become more active. [145] Although CSOs played a limited part during the assessments of the IUs, [146] they played an important role in developing the questionnaire to inform the assessment and in the appointment of new commissioners. [147] An IWA representative noted that they could not provide feedback on the assessment report, as the relevant government officials did not respond to IWA’s e-mails requesting a draft copy. [148]

Overall, this commitment contributed to marginal improvements in civic engagement and public access to information at the local level. Regarding civic participation, CSOs played an active role in some, but not all, aspects of assessing the performance and capacity of the IUs. Their role was limited, despite representation in the IURP. Regarding access to information, the capacity development trainings raised awareness among public officials on the Law on Access to Information and the importance of providing accurate and timely information to citizens. While this improved knowledge among officials may strengthen public access to information, there is no independent source to confirm that the trainings translated into increased information being made available, or that they significantly enhanced the capacity of officials to release information to the public. The marginal effect of this commitment is further reinforced by the fact that the scope of the trainings was limited to officials at only four government agencies.



[135] “Afghanistan Design Report 2017–2019,” Open Government Partnership, Section IV, “Commitments,” 53, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/documents/afghanistan-design-report-2017-2019/.
[136] Minutes from IURP’s meeting held on 23 September 2018 were made available to the IRM researcher in Kabul on 28 July 2019.
[137] Personal interview, technical advisor, Independent Commission on Access to Information, 28 July 2019, Kabul.
[138] This assessment is not available anymore on the new website of the MoIC, but it was initially made available here: http://old.moic.gov.af/fa/page/1290/104524. It is now accessible through the OGP Afghanistan repository at https://drive.google.com/file/d/13D1TI-CKDQ8oiCX3dYsdF5u1I67KqGx2/view.
[139] Follow-up Skype interview, head of information transparency, OGP Afghanistan Secretariat, Office of the President, 29 July 2020, Kabul.
[140] Ibid.
[141] Ibid.
[142] AIC homepage, https://aic.gov.af.
[143] Personal interview, access to information expert, OGP Afghanistan, 28 July 2019, Kabul.
[144] Ibid.
[145] Personal interview, director, Afghanistan Democracy and Development Organization, 6 August 2019, Kabul.
[146] Personal interview, access to information expert, OGP Afghanistan, 28 July 2019, Kabul; and personal interview, technical advisor, Independent Commission on Access to Information, 28 July 2019, Kabul.
[147] Personal interview, director, Afghanistan Democracy and Development Organization, 6 August 2019, Kabul.
[148] Personal interview, rule of law expert, Integrity Watch Afghanistan, 5 August 2019, Kabul.

Commitments

  1. Revise Law on Recruitment and Authority of Attorneys General

    AF0014, 2019, Access to Justice

  2. Revise Law on Local Government

    AF0015, 2019, Legislation & Regulation

  3. Establish Anti-Corruption Commission

    AF0016, 2019, Anti-Corruption

  4. Draft Beneficial Ownership Legislation

    AF0017, 2019, Anti-Corruption

  5. Portal for Processing Legislative Documents

    AF0018, 2019, Capacity Building

  6. CSO Monitoring of Education

    AF0019, 2019, E-Government

  7. Develop Electronic Complaint System for Local Government

    AF0020, 2019, Capacity Building

  8. Reform and Strengthen Education Data

    AF0021, 2019, Access to Information

  9. Participation in Local Budgeting

    AF0022, 2019, Fiscal Openness

  10. Electronic Revenue Collection System

    AF0023, 2019, Capacity Building

  11. Co-Create University Curriculum

    AF0024, 2019, Education

  12. Reform Promotion System for Police Officers

    AF0025, 2019, E-Government

  13. Monitoring Framework for Medicine Wholesalers

    AF0026, 2019, E-Government

  14. Monitoring of Private and Public Health Centers

    AF0027, 2019, E-Government

  15. Participation in National Budget

    AF0028, 2019, Fiscal Openness

  16. Open Justice for Anti-Corruption

    AF0029, 2019, Access to Justice

  17. Women's Empowerment Plan

    AF0030, 2019, Gender

  18. Establishment of Women Grand Council

    AF0031, 2019, Gender

  19. Law on Processing, Publishing and Enforcing Legislative Documents

    AF0002, 2017, Legislation & Regulation

  20. Courts to Address Violence Against Women

    AF0003, 2017, Access to Justice

  21. Public-Police Partnership Councils

    AF0004, 2017, Capacity Building

  22. Registering Assets of Government Officials

    AF0005, 2017, Anti-Corruption

  23. Scheme for Establishing Health Service Accreditation Entity

    AF0006, 2017, Capacity Building

  24. Urban Improvement National Policy

    AF0007, 2017, Infrastructure & Transport

  25. Protection Policy for Women Under Conflict and Emergency Situations

    AF0008, 2017, Fiscal Openness

  26. Civil Society Monitoring Plan for Education and Higher Education

    AF0009, 2017, Education

  27. Plan for the Establishment of a Joint Committee Overseeing the Implementation of the Anti-Corruption Strategy

    AF0010, 2017, Anti-Corruption

  28. Strengthen the Information Mechanism in 60 Governmental Agencies

    AF0011, 2017, Access to Information

  29. Starred commitment Implementing Open Contracting

    AF0012, 2017, Access to Information

  30. Starred commitment Public Participation in Road Network Projects

    AF0013, 2017, Infrastructure & Transport

  31. Starred commitment Mechanism of Public Partnership in Inspection Process

    AF0001, 2017, Anti-Corruption

Open Government Partnership