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Sierra Leone

Improve Implementation of Right to Access to Information (SL0026)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Sierra Leone Action Plan 2019-2021

Action Plan Cycle: 2019

Status: Active

Institutions

Lead Institution: Right to Access to Information Commission

Support Institution(s): Parliamentary Committee on Access to Information, Ministry of Information and Communications, Cabinet Secretariat, Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s affairs, Human Rights Commission , National Commission for Democracy, Anti-Corruption Commission, Society for Democratic Initiatives, Open Society Initiative West Africa, National Open Data Council, Forward Sierra Leone, Initiatives for Media Development, UN Women

Policy Areas

Access to Information, E-Government, Gender, Marginalized Communities, Open Data, Right to Information, Sustainable Development Goals

IRM Review

IRM Report: Sierra Leone Design Report 2019-2021

Starred: Pending IRM Review

Early Results: Pending IRM Review

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion: Pending IRM Review

Description

What is the public problem that the commitment will address?
A number of data initiatives have been conducted to assess
the data ecosystem in Sierra Leone. These include:
 Data assessment conducted as part of the Open Data
Readiness Assessment Report for Sierra Leone
 Post-2015 Data Test (under the auspices of Southern
Voice)
 Data Revolution and Roadmap report on the
Sustainable Development Goals
In addition, best practices suggest that there are often major
projects being conducted through government that have
inherent data dependencies, either in its development or need.
The Proactive Disclosure component of the Right to Access
Information Act 2013 governs all public authorities.
Specifically, in Part 2 Section 8 (1), the Act delineates a
minimum of 22 classes of information that will form the core
proactive publication for every public authority in the country.
This law aims to advance transparency and accountability
among all government ministries, departments and agencies
by implementing the law, as enacted. In 2018/2019, ten
Ministries, Departments and Agencies were targeted
through a World Bank funded Public Financial Management
Integrated Consolidated Project (PFMICP) to produce
publication schemes. Notably amongst them was Statistics
Sierra Leone which sits on 43% of official statistics and
amongst the first to produce a publication scheme.
This commitment aims to upscale work done to include more
Ministries, Departments and Agencies and non-state actors
with a gendered lens and the notion of leaving no one
behind. This commitment will also consider previous studies
and available data sources and conduct a rapid data
inventory exercise across core institutions and stakeholders
to better understand the data topics currently available and
quality. Twenty (20) key Ministries, Department and
Agencies and ten (10) non state actors will participate and
will be required to produce a proactive publication scheme
on data availability and publication schedules on the open
data portal. A number of tools will be applied in the publication scheme
to assess overall coverage including the Carter Foundation
Implementation Assessment Tool, Open Data Barometer,
Open Data Index, Open Data Inventory, the Carter Center
Gender the Minimum Essential Data Package available as a
module through the Global Partnership for Sustainable
Development Toolbox and the IAEG SDG Data Indicators
list. The intent is to be able to capture high-value data (in
terms of its potential use), understand who produces and
uses data, capture data quality issues, and collect data to
pilot how data coordination and sharing can take place
across institutions and stakeholders. This activity will further
refine assumptions in previous studies, align to the SDGs
and further populate the open data portal illustrating
potential use cases and value of open data. Proactive
publication of information/data is the mainstay of timely
availability of data. However, publication schemes have to
be tailored to the specific operations of each Ministries,
Department and Agency.
Demand-side stakeholders will also be trained on data
literacy, for them to effectively use and interpret the data
available. Due to the major shifts in society driven by
technological advances in the collection, analysis and use of
large data sets that has become commonplace, civil society
organizations (non-state actors) need training and support
to keep pace with global developments in the private and
public sectors, so that they can continue to mediate between
increasingly complex social groups and sectors in a
digitalized future. The representation of the interests of civil
society actors and their beneficiaries in a data-driven polity,
and the development of innovative, robust and scalable
solutions to social problems will all increasingly require data
literacy from civil society organizations’ that is currently not
there.
In Sierra Leone, women are often excluded from the flow of
information, both essential and strategic information as
evidenced in the ‘Multi Sector Impact Assessment of Gender
Dimensions of the Ebola virus in Sierra Leone’. Limited
access to information inhibits women’s physical, economic,
political autonomy, the reduction or elimination of structural
obstacles, negative attitudes and perceptions of women,
and gender based violence.
This commitment will therefore address more effective
management of public resources and will also increase
gender inclusion and accountability in Sierra Leone. This
commitment will support the advancement of a robust and effective access to information regime and improve access
to information for women and girls in Sierra Leone.

What is the commitment?
Increase the right to access information for all Sierra Leoneans
Access to Information, as defined by OGP’s Access to
Information Working Group Plan 2015, is established on
the foundation that public information is a crucial
component to open government, and “therefore a focus
must be placed on enhancing the capacities of both
institutions and society to identify, publish and disseminate
useful information.” The plan also communicated access to
information as a staple of OGP’s principles that when
utilized, “is crucial to addressing the most pressing social
needs, solving public problems, and improving the
effectiveness of government institutions.”
This commitment therefore will improve:
 Proactive Disclosure of information held by public
authorities.
 Improved access to information for women and girls.
 Timely and accurate reporting on the sustainable
development goals indicators and the national
agenda through open data.
 Effectiveness of public institutions by strengthening
the whole of government and multiple stakeholders.

How will the commitment contribute to solving the public problem?
The Right to Access Information Commission established
the National Open Data Council (ODC) of Sierra Leone to
push the frontiers of Open data and ensure that greater
awareness and compliance is achieved, by all Public
Authorities, in proactively strengthening availability and
access to quality data and information, by the general public.
This can only happen if all the key mechanisms are
strengthened and strategic and concerted efforts are made
by all stakeholders to achieve a society that subsist on
quality, accessible and trustable open data and information
required for quality decision making. The requirement for
achieving a free, fair and just society points to the rightful
access by society members to relevant quality data that is
open.
The proactive disclosure of information and leaving no one
behind approach empowers citizenry who requires a
sustainable development of their circumstances by all
actors. Proactive disclosure and other means of making
information accessible to women will allow women to make
meaningful and informed decisions, engage authorities, and
improve their socio-economic conditions. Additional data on
women’s access to information allows stakeholders working
in various sectors to refine their interventions aimed at
empowering and improving development outcomes for
women.

Why is this commitment relevant to OGP values?
Access to quality, timely and user-friendly datasets and
institutional information required by government, at all levels,
for policy and evidence-based decision-making, is a major
challenge for most government, non-governmental and
public institutions. Data and information that speaks to
indicators in the country’s National Development Plan that
are aligned with the SDGs and expected to be reported on
by MDAs, are difficult to access and use. Moreover,
information on specific operational dimensions of the MDAs
are also difficult to access which leads to less transparency,
ineffective governance and poor accountability which
impacts negatively on sustainable development. Additional
challenges include data quality, effective sustainable access
and inappropriate leveraging of technology to provide better
access and management of the high priority datasets and
information.
This commitment therefore recommends
Access to information: With the notion of leaving no one
behind, every Sierra Leonean will have access to
information held by Public Authorities.
Public accountability: Public Authorities will account for
information held by them in a user friendly manner.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

5. Access to Information

Main Objective

Increase the right to access information for all Sierra Leoneans: Access to Information, as defined by OGP’s Access to Information Working Group Plan 2015, is established on the foundation that public information is a crucial component to open government, and “therefore a focus must be placed on enhancing the capacities of both institutions and society to identify, publish and disseminate useful information.” The plan also communicated access to information as a staple of OGP’s principles that when utilized, “is crucial to addressing the most pressing social needs, solving public problems, and improving the effectiveness of government institutions.”

This commitment therefore will improve:

  • Proactive Disclosure of information held by public authorities
  • Improved access to information for women and girls
  • Timely and accurate reporting on the sustainable development goals indicators and the national agenda through open data
  • Effectiveness of public institutions by strengthening the whole of government and multiple stakeholders

Milestones

  • The Right to Access Information Commission to prepare annual and special reports on women’s right of access to information to the Government of Sierra Leone, UN and Regional Special Rapporteurs, Working Groups, and Independent Experts
  • 20 Public Authorities develop, identify and proactively disclose information and data sets meaningful for women
  • 20 Public Authorities should place information in spaces accessible to all women through modes and means (language, formats, presentation, simplified language) that allow women to access and use the information, particularly marginalized women
  • 60 Ministries, Department and Agencies to identify and produce a designation of public employees to serve as Public Information Officers
  • 60 Ministries, Department and Agencies to adopt internal rules on freedom of information, and include access to information budget lines in their annual national budgets
  • Improve access to data held by the Finance, Education, Health, Agriculture and Climate sectors through the Open Data Portal
  • 60 Ministries, Departments and Agencies and 10 Civil Society produce a proactive Disclosure scheme
  • Develop and ratify an Open Data Policy for Sierra Leone

Editorial Note: For the complete text of this commitment, please see Sierra Leone’s action plan at (https://bit.ly/3bPiqwh).

IRM Design Report Assessment

Verifiable:

Yes

Relevant:

Access to Information

Potential impact:

Minor

Commitment Analysis

This commitment aims to upscale proactive disclosure of information held by public authorities, specifically focusing on improved access to information for women and girls and timely and accurate reporting on the Sustainable Development Goals. [53] Despite a colonial legal legacy that restricted or censured the disclosure of information, Sierra Leone has endorsed access to information as a key element of open government, and has recognized the significance of a well-functioning data ecosystem. [54] However, despite a mandatory legal provision, proactive disclosure of government-held information is limited and only a handful of Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) have developed proactive publication schemes. [55]

 

Further, in Sierra Leone women are often excluded from the flow of information. For example, during the 2014–2016 Ebola outbreak, the lack of sex-disaggregated data and access to acceptable healthcare information compounded existing gender inequalities in a context where women were more susceptible to infection as a result of their traditional caregiving roles. [56] Specific issues that are exacerbated by women and girls’ limited access to information include unemployment and underemployment, [57] gender-based violence, access to education, [58] access to justice, [59] maternal and child health, and the participation of women in political and economic institutions. Many stakeholders in Sierra Leone are working on gender-based issues, but information is often fragmented and not easy to reuse. [60] Finally, Sierra Leone’s participation in the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data initiative underscored that notwithstanding a number of activities and national strategies, a lot of work still lay ahead to realize the “data revolution” necessary to track achievement of the SDGs. [61]

The commitment tackles limited proactive disclosure and the lack of a gendered access to information lens through a three-pronged strategy. It focuses firstly on measures to strengthen internal systems and processes in MDAs (and even a small number of civil society organizations), such as assistance in developing proactive publication schemes, appointing public information officers, adopting internal rules, and including access to information budget lines. Secondly, it requires a limited number of public authorities (20) to focus on producing and proactively disclosing datasets meaningful to women, and making information more accessible to women. It also mandates the Right of Access Information Commission (RAIC) to prepare annual and special reports on women’s right of access to information from the government and a variety of international oversight institutions. Thirdly, it seeks to advance the open data agenda by adding datasets on finance, education, health, agriculture, and climate to the existing Open Data Portal, and developing and ratifying an open data policy.

This commitment is relevant to the OGP value of access to information, as it will strengthen the institutional mechanisms for proactive disclosure of information on the part of government and civil society, and add to the datasets already available on the Open Data Portal. It also calls upon some public authorities to expand the modes, means, and spaces for making information accessible to women.

At the time the commitment was designed, colonial-era laws (in particular, the Official Secrets Act, 2011 and the Public Order Act, 1965) remained in force. However, the Right to Access Information Act, 2013 made the proactive disclosure of 22 classes of information mandatory, [62] and obligated all public authorities to adopt a publication scheme for approval by the RAIC. [63] By 2018/2019, ten MDAs had developed publication schemes with funding assistance from the World Bank. [64] In 2016, Sierra Leone established an Open Data Council, [65] completed an Open Data Readiness Assessment, and acceded to the International Open Data Charter. [66]

If fully implemented as written, the potential impact of this commitment will be minor. The commitment will be an incremental but positive step to improve the extent of proactive disclosure, as it will expand the number of MDA proactive publication schemes six-fold and strengthen internal systems. It will also serve as an incremental and positive step to address women’s lack of access to information by mandating 20 MDAs to produce datasets meaningful to women and improving the modalities by which women access information. However, the commitment does not engage citizens, particularly women, in implementing access to information efforts. It therefore misses out on a critical opportunity to leverage civic participation for impactful and comprehensive access to information reform.

The commitment is verifiable but lacks specificity. A strong implementation plan should specify (i) which MDAs will be targeted for proactive publication support measures (ii) which MDAs will be responsible for improving women’s access to information (iii) who is responsible for developing the Open Data Policy (iv) and clarify what are the ‘spaces’ in which women will have improved access information. Additionally, the plan should (v) outline expectations around data quality and the level of data disaggregation as well as (vi) how MDAs will collaborate and generate interoperable data.

Successful implementation should also include ongoing public participation, and ensure that reports ultimately inform good policymaking. The government should work with citizens to identify data needs, possible synergy between citizen-generated and government data, and the need for training on data use, capacity, and literacy. Particular attention should be given to empowering women to actively participate in identifying their data needs and forms of access. Reports on women’s access to information that result from the commitment should be used to inform gender-aware data policy.

[53] Sierra Leone’s OGP Action Plan, 2019–2021, Open Government Partnership, https://bit.ly/3bPiqwh.
[54] Open Data Readiness Assessment: Prepared for the Government of Sierra Leone, 2016.
[55] Ms. Yeama Thompson, former commissioner of the Right to Access Information Commission, interview with IRM researcher conducted on 30 July 2020. According to the OGP national action plan, ten MDAs developed publication schemes through a World Bank-funded Public Financial Management Integrated Consolidated Project. See Sierra Leone’s OGP Action Plan, 2019–2021, Open Government Partnership, https://bit.ly/3bPiqwh.
[56] Anjali Manivannan, “Gender inequalities in access to information about Ebola as gender-based violence”, 22 Juen 2015, https://harvardhrj.com/2015/06/gender-inequalities-in-access-to-information-about-ebola-as-gender-based-violence/.
[57] Measuring National Priorities for Post-2015 in Sierra Leone Post-2015 Data Test: County-Level Experiences, Southern Voice, p. 19. Unemployment and underemployment are especially high among women, who would benefit from access to information on small enterprise development and access to microcredit.
[58] The participation of girls in Sierra Leone’s secondary school system is a long-standing concern (see Commitment 2). Women and girls would benefit from access to information on school feeding programs, the distribution of uniforms, and the provision of school buses for children. See Measuring National Priorities for Post-2015 in Sierra Leone Post-2015 Data Test: County-Level Experiences, Southern Voice, p. 30.
[59] Women have faced barriers to accessing justice provided by informal customary justice providers and the formal courts due to discrimination, lack of information, and lower education levels. See Measuring National Priorities for Post-2015 in Sierra Leone Post-2015 Data Test: County-Level Experiences, Southern Voice, p. 62.
[60] Open Data Readiness Assessment: Prepared for the Government of Sierra Leone, 2016, p. 104. Setting up a pilot project to achieve gender equality and empower women and girls was therefore expressly proposed.
[61] In particular, it was noted that Sierra Leone needs to foster a whole-government and multistakeholder approach; increase data use, capacities, and literacy; create a vibrant data ecosystem (linking official statistics, administrative data, citizen-generated data, and earth observation data); improve data quality in terms of disaggregation and collection; and source adequate funding for a coordinated SDG data roadmap.  See “Data revolution roadmaps for sustainable development Multi-stakeholder National Workshop (Sierra Leone)”, Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, 14–15 June 2016, https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B9NgUfNqOEoqMENHWmNtcF9kR1k/view.
[62] Section 8(1) of the Right to Access Information Act, 2013 sets out the classes of information that form the core proactive publication obligations of every public authority.
[63] Section 8(2) Right to Access Information Act, 2013. A publication scheme must set out the classes of records the authority will publish on a proactive basis and the manner of publishing such records. The scheme must be widely disseminated, including on the authority’s website.
[64] Ms. Yeama Thompson, former commissioner of the Right to Access Information Commission, interview with IRM researcher conducted on 30 July 2020. See also Sierra Leone’s OGP Action Plan, 2019–2021, Open Government Partnership, https://bit.ly/3bPiqwh.
[65] “Datasets”, Open Data Sierra Leone, https://www.opendatasl.gov.sl/search/type/dataset. The Open Data Portal was relaunched in March 2017, and currently houses 131 datasets on topics ranging from healthcare and education to socio-demographics, energy and power, and the economy.
[66] Data Roadmaps for Sustainable Development: Assessment and Lessons Learned, Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, December 2017, p. 20.

Commitments

  1. Expanding Community-Based Justice Services

    SL0022, 2019, Access to Justice

  2. Improving Access to Secondary School

    SL0023, 2019, Education

  3. Tax System Transparency

    SL0024, 2019, Fiscal Openness

  4. Beneficial Ownership Registry

    SL0025, 2019, Anti-Corruption

  5. Improve Implementation of Right to Access to Information

    SL0026, 2019, Access to Information

  6. Advancing Gender Equality

    SL0027, 2019, Access to Justice

  7. Open Parliament

    SL0028, 2019, Capacity Building

  8. Records and Archives Management

    SL0029, 2019, Access to Information

  9. Gender

    SL0012, 2016, Capacity Building

  10. Foreign Aid Transparency

    SL0013, 2016, Access to Information

  11. Waste Management

    SL0014, 2016, Capacity Building

  12. Fiscal Transparency and Open Budget

    SL0015, 2016, Access to Information

  13. Audit Report

    SL0016, 2016, Anti-Corruption

  14. Climate Change

    SL0017, 2016, Access to Information

  15. Elections

    SL0018, 2016, Access to Information

  16. Record Archive Management

    SL0019, 2016, Access to Information

  17. Access to Justice

    SL0020, 2016, Access to Justice

  18. Open Public Procurement Contracting

    SL0021, 2016, Anti-Corruption

  19. Publish and Revise 70% of Mining and Agricultural Lease Agreements and Contracts

    SL0009, 2014, Access to Information

  20. Starred commitment Right to Access Information Law

    SL0010, 2014, Access to Information

  21. Open Data Portal for Transparency in Fiscal and Extractive Transactions

    SL0011, 2014, Access to Information

  22. Public Integrity Pact with 5 Ministries, Departments, and Agencies

    SL0001, 2014, Anti-Corruption

  23. Archives and Records Management Act

    SL0002, 2014, Access to Information

  24. Scale up Performance Management and Service Delivery Directorate

    SL0003, 2014, Public Participation

  25. Compliance with Audit Measures

    SL0004, 2014, Anti-Corruption

  26. Starred commitment Single Treasure Account

    SL0005, 2014, Anti-Corruption

  27. Extractive Industry Revenue Act

    SL0006, 2014, Anti-Corruption

  28. Scaling up Extractive Industry Transparency Initiatives

    SL0007, 2014, Anti-Corruption

  29. Local Content Policy (LCP) Linkages with MDAs

    SL0008, 2014, Capacity Building

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