Salwai’s message was relayed by the Acting Director General/PMO, Gregoire Nimbtik at the opening of the RTI Officers’ Training at the Prime Minister’s Office Multi-Function Hall Monday.
About 30 government RTI officers or officers nominated for this responsibility in their respective agencies to see what RTI is, how it is processed, get a fair understanding on exemptions under the RTI Act are attending the training.
“The government needs to place more emphasis on training by developing and implementing effective RTI training programmes for officials. “We need to train government officers in the provincial Councils and outer islands on how to run RTI activities”, the message was relayed.
RTI is relatively a new concept in Vanuatu that is beginning to change the mindset of officials on how government documents are perceived in the name of “public interests”. The RTI Act was approved by Parliament in November 2016. This Act now applies to 7 government agencies that are covered under the first Ministerial Enforcement Order that was signed in August last year. These are the Departments of Customs, Agriculture, Forestry, Livestock, Tourism, Statistics, and OGCIO.
Mr Salwai’s message read: “as the law is implemented, problems will be identified and these will need to be discussed with staff and solutions found. Over time, staff might become unclear about their duties under the RTI Act or have questions about implementation, so they should be given regular refresher training to make sure they all know what to do.”
The Prime Minister’s message also acknowledged the contribution of NGOs in the developments of RTI in Vanuatu, particularly in the campaigns for RTI and he suggested they should add RTI training in the program of activities. “RTI Training can involve both Government and NGOs, as well as international organisations, as is the case in this particular training. I know NGO’s have been instrumental in providing awareness on RTI and I call on you to add training in your program to support the RTI implementation process”, he said.
Speaking on behalf of the NGO’s, President of MAV Evelyne Toa spoke of the success of the collaborative effort between Government and the civil society that led to where RTI is today.
The “right to access information” under the RTI Act was examined by participants yesterday and today they are looking at how to process an RTI request. They were being guided by UNDP-UNODC Consultants, Aylair Livingstone and Lavenia Rokovucago under the UN-PRACP.
The training will end tomorrow.