British Information Commissioner accuses politicians of attack on freedom of information20 Jul, 2012
In an interview to the Guardian, the Information Commissioner of Britain Mr. Christopher Graham has accused the Prime Minister Mr. David Cameron and other members of the political establishment of launching a damaging attack on the ‘Freedom of Information Act’. He said "So long as senior politicians and mandarins and distinguished former editors of the Times go around saying that freedom of information legislation is all terrible, they are driving bad behaviour because more junior figures in the civil service will assume that you can't write anything down and that government can only be done by word of mouth. It is the enemy of good government."
He said public condemnation of the law from the Prime Minister, Mr. Tony Blair and the former cabinet secretary Lord O'Donnell was possible illegal activity in Whitehall. Blair had said his administration's support for the act in 2000 was his biggest mistake in government, claiming it has stopped honest discussions between ministers and their close aides. O'Donnell has also voiced concerns while Cameron two months ago criticised the "endless discovery process" of responding to freedom of information (FIO) requests.
The Freedom of Information Act, 2000 is similar to the Right to Information (RTI) Act of India which allows citizens to request and examine records of public authorities. The Information Commissioner claimed that:
His office had found evidence of destruction of public documents in British government but was powerless to prosecute;
Private providers are moving into the area of providing public services which were hitherto provided by the government, such as welfare activities. He demanded that such companies should also be covered by the act;
He suspects the use of private emails and verbal briefings in the government with the objective of avoiding public scrutiny of their action.
While his claims of accountability may be a matter of debate in Britain, they would sound similar to the noises being raised in India.