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Liberia

Freedom of Information (FOI) Act (LR0029)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Liberia Action Plan 2017-2019

Action Plan Cycle: 2017

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: National Information Commission

Support Institution(s): MICAT, iLab Liberia, Accountability Lab Liberia, CENTAL, OSIWA

Policy Areas

Access to Information, Capacity Building, Right to Information

IRM Review

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

Starred: No

Early Results: Marginal

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information , Technology

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

What is the public problem that the commitment will address?: Liberia was the first country in Africa to pass a Freedom of Information (FoI) Act but very few citizens know the act exists, nor are they able to obtain information through the act. Additionally, the government has difficulty providing the information that should be available under the act. Greater access to information will allow citizens to make more informed decisions about the performance of their government and understand how their resources are being used as part of the process of governance.; What is the commitment?: The commitment is for the appointment of additional Public Information Officers in all counties and to provide additional trainings to ensure they can fulfil their mandate and responsibilities as they relate to the FoI Act.; How will the commitment contribute to solve the public problem?: The commitment will strengthen the supply side of FoI by ensuring that the government can provide information to citizens; and the demand side of information- by making the process of obtaining information easier for citizens, bolstering trust in the process and leading to more FoI requests.; Why is this commitment relevant to OGP values?: Meaningful citizen participation depends on the public’s ability to access information. This commitment allows access by the general public to data held by the national government. Full implementation of the Act will enables accountability, transparency and citizen participation.; Additional information: Budget for the implementation of this commitment will come from the Open Society Institute for West Africa (OSIWA)

IRM Midterm Status Summary

IRM End of Term Status Summary

3. Implementation of the Freedom of Information Act (FOI)

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

"The commitment is for the appointment of additional Public Information Officers in all counties and to provide additional trainings to ensure they can fulfil their mandate and responsibilities as they relate to the FoI Act.

"The commitment will strengthen the supply side of FoI by ensuring that the government can provide information to citizens; and the demand side of information- by making the process of obtaining information easier for citizens, bolstering trust in the process and leading to more FoI requests."

Milestones:

  1. Appointment of additional Public Information Officers in all counties and trainings.
  2. Training of PIOs on the online Freedom of Information platform developed.
  3. Training for PIOs on how to generate frequently requested documents;
  4. Information Commission provides quarterly reports on progress and use of FoI law.

Editorial Note: For the complete text of this commitment, please see Liberia's action plan at: https://www.opengovpartnership.org/documents/liberia-action-plan-2017-2019/

IRM Design Report Assessment

IRM Implementation Report Assessment

● Verifiable: Yes

● Relevant: Yes

Access to Information

● Potential impact: Minor

Completion: Substantial

Did it Open Government? Marginal

This commitment aimed to appoint and train public information officers in all 15 counties and assemble and make accessible quarterly reports on progress and adherence to the Freedom of Information (FOI) law. The commitment sought to address low public awareness and usage of public information and weak government adherence to FOI mandates. [21] It builds on prior commitments in Liberia's 2013 and 2015 action plans to increase citizens' access to information.

In 2010, Liberia was the first West African nation to implement a FOI law. However, citizens and public officials exhibit limited understanding and use of the law. [22] At the time of this commitment's formulation, there were 57 designated public information officers in central ministries, agencies, and commissions. Most also served in other roles, such as public relations officers, with their public information officer role being an additional, and sometimes conflicting, responsibility. [23] Additionally, the Independent Information Commission's (IIC) budget constraints limited coordination with civil society. A civil society organization, iLab, created the infoLib website in 2016 to simplify, expedite, and track requests for government information. [24]

This commitment was substantially completed this commitment by the end of the implementation period. Due to the IIC's work with the Ministry of Internal Affairs, 15 additional public information officers were appointed to counties (Milestone 1). The commission and civil society trained public information officers on how to facilitate requests for information under the FOI law using infoLib and off-line sources (Milestones 2 and 3). The IIC held only two workshops in Monrovia, due to limited funds. However, civil society organizations such as the Carter Center Liberia, Open Society Initiative for West Africa, and the Center for Media Studies and Peace Building provided further public information officer training. [25]

The United States Agency for International Development contracted the nongovernmental organization Internews to provide technical assistance to the IIC for its website, infoLib, and other activities. However, the IIC reports that this assistance did not materialize, and therefore, infoLib continues to be managed outside the government by iLab. Moreover, the IIC did not publish quarterly reports (Milestone 4), as "nothing had been happening during [the implementation period]." [26] Therefore, this commitment was substantially rather than fully completed.

This commitment's activities had a marginal effect on opening government. The IIC and the Carter Center noted that the appointment of additional public information officers increased the government's capacity to respond to requests for information. [27] However, the IRM researcher was unable to confirm whether information requests or government responses increased as a result of implementation. Additionally, this commitment's activities are identical to activities carried out in Liberia's second national action plan and therefore do not represent a significant change in government practices. [28]

[21] An Act to Establish the Freedom of Information, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Liberia (6 October 2010), http://www.ilo.org/dyn/natlex/docs/ELECTRONIC/104012/126692/F1739999472/LBR104012.pdf.
[23] Independent Reporting Mechanism, Liberia End-of-Term Report 2015–2017 (Washington, DC: Open Government Partnership, 2018), https://www.opengovpartnership.org/documents/liberia-end-of-term-report-2015-2017-year-2/.
[24] InfoLib homepage, http://infolib.org.lr.
[25] Saah N'Tow (The Carter Center), interview by IRM researcher, September 2019.
[26] Ibid.
[27] Ibid.
[28] "Appoint Public Information Officers (PIOs) (LR0007)," Liberia, Open Government Partnership, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/members/liberia/commitments/LR0007/.

Commitments

  1. Extend capacity and transparency of judicial system

    LR0039, 2020, Access to Justice

  2. Create public beneficial ownership register

    LR0037, 2020, Access to Information

  3. Publish budget information online

    LR0038, 2020, Aid

  4. Promote integrity within institutions and schools

    LR0040, 2020, Anti-Corruption

  5. Increase transparency and inclusivity of public contracts

    LR0041, 2020, Access to Information

  6. Train health professionals and open health data

    LR0042, 2020, Access to Information

  7. Make legislative process more transparent and participatory

    LR0043, 2020, E-Government

  8. Enhance compliance and transparency in tax system

    LR0044, 2020, E-Government

  9. Implement transparent SGBV roadmap

    LR0045, 2020, Access to Information

  10. Increase youth engagement in national policy

    LR0046, 2020, Marginalized Communities

  11. Monitor fulfillment of commitments

    LR0047, 2020, E-Government

  12. Publish latest health data

    LR0048, 2020, Access to Information

  13. Legislative Monitoring Database

    LR0027, 2017, E-Government

  14. Publication of Budget Documents

    LR0028, 2017, Anti-Corruption

  15. Freedom of Information (FOI) Act

    LR0029, 2017, Access to Information

  16. Citizen Monitoring for the Justice System

    LR0030, 2017, Access to Justice

  17. Feedback Mechanism to Build Accountability of the LNP

    LR0031, 2017, Access to Information

  18. Capacity Building for Integrity in Government

    LR0032, 2017, Anti-Corruption

  19. Transparency in the Land Authority

    LR0033, 2017, E-Government

  20. Accountability and Value for Money Through Open Contracting

    LR0034, 2017, Access to Information

  21. Beneficial Ownership Registry

    LR0035, 2017, Access to Information

  22. Open Data/Citizen Navigation Portal

    LR0036, 2017, Access to Information

  23. Starred commitment Commercial Land Use Rights Information

    LR0011, 2015, Capacity Building

  24. Open Aid Portal and Publication of Aid Data

    LR0012, 2015, Access to Information

  25. Link Financial Management System to Aid Management Platform

    LR0013, 2015, Aid

  26. Facilitate Tracking of EVD Funds

    LR0014, 2015, Access to Information

  27. Starred commitment Implementation of the New Jury Law

    LR0015, 2015, Public Participation

  28. Citzen Monitoring of Justice System

    LR0016, 2015,

  29. Civic Education and Citizen Engagement Around Offline Tools

    LR0017, 2015,

  30. Know Your Rights' Initiative

    LR0018, 2015, Justice

  31. Passage of Whistleblower Protection Act

    LR0019, 2015,

  32. Transparency Hubs

    LR0020, 2015, Public Participation

  33. Public Service Integrity

    LR0021, 2015, Anti-Corruption

  34. Citizen Feedback Platform.

    LR0022, 2015, E-Government

  35. e-Government

    LR0023, 2015, Capacity Building

  36. Public Expenditure Management Systems

    LR0024, 2015, Capacity Building

  37. Public Safety/ Law Enforecement Reform

    LR0025, 2015, E-Government

  38. Open Data Portal

    LR0026, 2015, Access to Information

  39. Appoint Public Information Officers (PIOs)

    LR0007, 2015, Capacity Building

  40. Popularize Freedom of Information (Foi) Law

    LR0008, 2015, Access to Information

  41. Expand Open Budget Initiative

    LR0009, 2015, Access to Information

  42. Public Information on Land and Natural Resource Reform

    LR0010, 2015, Anti-Corruption

  43. Increase Access to Public Information

    LR0001, 2013, Access to Information

  44. Open Budget Initiative

    LR0002, 2013, E-Government

  45. Extractive Industries Transparency

    LR0003, 2013, Anti-Corruption

  46. Citizens’ Participation and Dialogue

    LR0004, 2013, Public Participation

  47. Starred commitment Accountability and Integrity

    LR0005, 2013, Anti-Corruption

  48. Technology and Innovation

    LR0006, 2013, Access to Information

Open Government Partnership