Info bill will make corruption easier, says union

2011-06-03 12:46

The Protection of Information Bill in its current state will make corruption within government easier, the SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) said.

“We wholeheartedly endorse the position of our federation, the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) in criticising the current state of the Protection of Information Bill,” Samwu spokesperson Tahir Sema said in a statement.

Numerous organisations and individuals have criticised the special committee on the bill, accusing it of trying to rush the proposed legislation through Parliament in its present form.

“We are also alarmed that the ANC parliamentary caucus is using its majority to ensure that no significant improvements and safeguards against abuse of the bill are being taken into consideration,” Sema said.

“If the Protection of Information Bill goes ahead, it will not only enable a whole range of municipal documents to be classified as secret, but will also serve to protect those who are misusing their positions for private and nefarious gain,” he said.

Sema said that once information was classified, anyone found in possession of it would be liable for prosecution.

“In other words, if a municipal employee discovers corruption taking place and seeks to report the matter, they will not only be deemed to have exceeded their powers, but could be dismissed, and if they publicly disclose the documents can be prosecuted [leading to] whistleblowers and concerned citizens [being] criminalised,” he said.

“If this bill is passed in its current form, there are likely to be more service delivery protests, not less. There is likely to be more corruption, not less, and there is likely to be more disenchantment with our democratic society and its institutions.”

Sema said the bill was ill-considered and undermined parts of the country’s Constitution.

“Section 32 of the Constitution states that everyone has the right of access to (a) any information held by the state and (b) any information that is held by another person and that is required for the exercise or protection of any rights.

“Furthermore, Section 16 states that everyone has the right to freedom of expression, which includes freedom of the press and other media,” he said.

“In the interests of our democracy and the freedom of our people to access information and use it to ensure that their rights are protected, this bill must be stopped in its tracks.

“The parliamentary caucus must stop and listen to what civil society is saying, and engage them to find a democratic solution to the challenges they believe the current and inappropriate bill will address.

“Failure to do so will be a serious disservice to the people of this country,” Sema said.

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