You will be able to file an effective request for information if you take into consideration the following:
If your request for information is clear, it will help PIO or the head of the public body in providing you the requested information. Otherwise, it will confuse the officials and time will be wasted in explaining as to what information is being sought.
For an example of an unclear request for information, look at the request for information below:
Please provide attendance record of MNAs and sanctioned and filled posts of National Assembly and medical bills.
There are many things wrong with this request for information. The time period of the attendance record of MNAs has not been mentioned. It is not clear whose medical bills are being sought. Also, there is no correlation between the attendance record of MNAs and the information about the sanctioned and filled posts of the National Assembly.
Here is how this request for information could be made clearer.
You are requested to provide the following information:
- Session wise attendance record of each MNA from January 01, 2016 to December 31, 2017;
- Total amount claimed and total amount disbursed to each MNA as medical expenditure from January 01, 2016 to December 31, 2017.
Often people send a request for information to a public body that does not hold the requested information; address to the wrong public official or forget to sign it.
You can ensure correctness by taking into consideration the following:
- ensure that the request for information is addressed to either Public Information Officer, if designated or to the Head of the Public body;
- ensure through background research that the information being requested is held by the public body;
- ensure that you have put date on your information request and that it is signed;
- ensure that you have provided your contact details i.e. postal address, phone number and E-mail;
- ensure to mention that you are filing the information request under the Right of Access to Information Act 2017;
- ensure that you are filing information request to a federal public body as provincial public bodies do not come within the purview of the Right of Access to Information Act 2017.
If you want to ensure that your request for information is complete in each and every respect, please ensure the following:
- the request for information is sent via registered post;
- original receipt of the registered post and the copy of the information request is maintained for filing appeal to the commission in case you are not satisfied with the response of the public body.
Often applicants requesting information write long paragraphs where only couple of sentences can serve the purpose. There is no need to provide background for requesting information.
You do not need to describe the purpose of filing information request. In fact, the law specifically prohibits Public Information Officers to ask the purpose of seeking information request from an applicant. There is no need for mentioning any goals that you might be able to achieve by getting access to the requested information. The requested information will be provided to you on legal grounds and not necessarily on your intended goals.
You can write a concise request for information by ensuring the following:
- state that you are seeking access to the requested information under the Right of Access to Information Act 2017;
- provide sufficient details of requested information, your postal address and contact details;
- avoid narrating purpose for seeking information and the goals you intend to achieve by getting access to the requested information;
- avoid commentary on the real or perceived corruption surrounding the subject matter of the requested information.
Often requests for information are vague and general in nature.
why streets in my area present a picture of waste land and who is responsible for this inn CDA?
- what is the total number of sanctioned posts and what is the total number of filled posts of sanitary workers in CDA?
- How many sanitary workers are deputed for collecting waste from I-10/2?
- What is mechanism for checking the performance of sanitary workers and their supervisors?
- What specific action has been taken, (if any) against sanitary workers and their supervisors for not performing their duties from January 01, 2018 to date?
When you file request for information, it is not a mere piece of paper. Your request for information represents you as a person before public officials and, in case, you file appeal against the public body, it represents you before the commission.
You may employ aggressive tone and phrases and be legally right at the same time. However, it will not leave a good impression of you as a person. Try to be polite in your tone and text.
You can be considerate if you place yourself in the shoes of a Public Information Officer. Often applicants overwhelm a Public Information Officer by asking too many questions in request for information.
When filing a request for information, consider how will you be able to deal with the requested information if you were a Public Information Officer. This approach will help you in seeking specific information.