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RTI Commission raises concerns over clause in Audit Bill

The Bill proposed to afford this protection unconditionally, without any assessment as to whether such a wide prohibition is necessary in a democratic society, without due regard as to whether grave prejudice will be caused by the release of information thereby and without any time period being specified in regard to the potential presentation of such report or statement before Parliament. The RTIC is concerned that a ‘chilling effect’ may be created by this general prohibition. This concern is reinforced by the fact that the Bill provides that any ‘member or person or qualified auditor who communicates any such matter to any person or suffers or permits any unauthorized person to have access to any books, papers or other records relating to any such matter, commits an offence.’ General prohibitions on information and the criminalization of information disclosure that is in disobedience thereto are contrary to the letter and spirit of the RTI Act. The RTIC emphasizes the fact that the precedent set by shielding some offices and individuals from RTI in this manner will dilute the victories gained for Sri Lankans through the enactment of a globally recognized law, risk a gravely negative impact on the embryonic development of the country’s Right to Information regime and discourage largely positive tendencies evidenced so far by Public Authorities in dismantling a decades-old culture of secrecy and denial of legitimate informatiThe commission noted the importance of upholding the public right to know which is a core principle of the RTI Act. The Right To Information (RTI) Commission has raised concerns over a clause in the proposed Audit Bill.In a statement the Right to Information Commission (RTIC) expressed its particular concern in reference to clause 9 (1) (b) of the proposed Audit Bill(gazette issued on 16.03.2018) and presently before Parliament which stipulates that members of the Audit Service Commission, any person appointed to any office under the Audit Act or any other person assisting any such person for the purpose of carrying out the provisions under this Act or a qualified auditor engaged by the Auditor General shall not disclose any information received in the performance of duties until documentation in that regard is placed before Parliament. The only exception will be where there is a request of Parliament or an order of court. It is reminded in this regard that the RTI Act is premised on the principle of maximum disclosure while protecting specific interests (national security, privacy, law and order etc). These interests are, in turn, subjected to an overriding public interest test. As such, the RTI Act does not place specific categories or classes of documents or the functioning of specific offices beyond the reach of information requesters.Consequently RTIC says draft laws currently in the public domain that proposes to place selected state offices on an advantaged position as against others and enforce general prohibitions on citizens asking for information on the due and proper functioning of such offices raise legitimate concerns as to whether this will create exclusive domains of privilege for those offices. (Colombo Gazette) read more


The under 100g CO2 engine debuts at SMMT HQ

‘We were pleased to host the event, especially for something as fundamentally important to the British motor industry as this diesel engine’, said SMMT Chief Executive Christopher Macgowan. ‘If we are to address environmental issues in a sustainable manner, this type of approach has to be the way forward.’ The ULCCC is a two year, government-supported programme looking to develop an affordable, five-door vehicle with well-to-wheel CO2 emissions of less than 100g/km. The resulting vehicle must retain all the features of a conventional car in its class, whilst delivering equitable performance. Working within a UK government initiative, British engineering consultancy Zytek has developed an economical and environmentally friendly diesel engine which can be used in most popular vehicle sectors. Launched in early December at Forbes House in the presence of Dr Stephen Ladyman, minister of state for transport, this new technology means that vehicle owners could drive across London‘s extended congestion charge zone for just four pence of fuel. The demonstration vehicle was built for the UK government’s Ultra Low Carbon Car Challenge (ULCCC) and has exceeded all targets set for the programme, emitting an exceptional 85g/km CO2. At the launch, Dr Ladyman commented, ‘If we are going to cut carbon emissions from road transport we need innovative new technologies. This launch shows that there is the potential dramatically to reduce emissions from cars.’ The under 100g CO2 engine debuts at SMMT HQ Stephen Hart, transport programme manager with the EST, commends the development. ‘This is a considerable achievement. There is currently no production diesel hybrid and nothing that meets comparable cost targets. With Zytek’s technology, I can see this changing fairly soon.’Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window) read more