Country

Liberia

Liberia

Name of law : Freedom of Information Act
First adopted : 2010

Section Max ScoreScore
Right of Access 6 5
Scope 30 30
Requesting procedures 30 19
Exceptions 30 27
Appeals 30 20
Sanctions 8 7
Promotional measures 16 16
TOTAL 150 124

Introduction:
Liberia's law is one of the world's most recently passed access laws, having been approved in 2010. It is also one of the top scoring laws. While implementation is difficult to measure at this early stage, our methodology demonstrates that Liberia's lawmakers have laid the groundwork for a bold, progressive and ambitious access regime. We hope that this legislation will implemented just as boldly and ambitiously, since it has the potential to turn Liberia into one of the world's most open and transparent governments.
Right of Access

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1 The legal framework (including jurisprudence) recognises a fundamental right of access to information.Score 0 for no constitutional right to information, 1 point for a limited constitutional right, 2 points for full constitutional recognition of a public right of access to information.2 Partially Constitution Article 15(b): "The right encompasses the right to hold opinions without interference and the right to knowledge. It includes freedom of speech and of the press, academic freedom to receive and impart knowledge and information and the right of libraries to make such knowledge available. It includes non-interference with the use of the mail, telephone and telegraph. It likewise includes the right to remain silent. Constitution Article 15(c): "In pursuance of this right, there shall be no limitation on the public right to be informed about the government and its functionaries. Constitution Art 15(b) provides a right to receive and impart information, 15(c) - right to be informed about the government and its functionaries. Neither of these is spot on, but worth a point.
2 The legal framework creates a specific presumption in favour of access to all information held by public authorities, subject only to limited exceptions.No=0, Partially=1, Yes=22 YES 1.4(b): "Everyone has a right of access to information generated, received and or held by public bodies, subject only to such limitations as are necessary and narrowly established for reason of an equally or more compelling public interest."
3 3.1 The legal framework contains a specific statement of principles calling for a broad interpretation of the RTI law
3.2 The legal framework emphasises the benefits of the right to information?
3.1(Y/N - max 1 point)
3.2 (Y/N - max 1 point)
2 YES 1.4(b): "Everyone has a right of access to information generated, received and or held by public bodies, subject only to such limitations as are necessary and narrowly established for reason of an equally or more compelling public interest." 1 - Preamble




Scope

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MAX score
Findings

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Article

Comments
4 Everyone (including non-citizens and legal entities) has the right to file requests for information.Score 0 point if only residents/citizens; 1 point for all natural persons; 1 point for legal persons. 2 YES 1.3.4: "“Person” means any individual, partnership, corporation, joint venture, trust, estate, unincorporated entity, government or any juridical entity." 3.2: "Request for Information: Every person, irrespective of their nationality or residence, may request, receive, reproduce and retain any information held by (1) a public authority or (2) private entity that receives public funds or engage in public functions or provision of public service; provided that in respect of private entities, the information shall relate to the public funds, benefit, functions or service."
5 The right of access applies to all material held by or on behalf of public authorities which is recorded in any format, regardless of who produced it.Score 1-3 points if limited definition of information information such as not "internal documents" or databases excluded, 4 points for all information with no exceptions.4 YES 1.3.5: "“Private Bodies” include any entity, business or otherwise, owned by private persons." expansive definition
6 Requesters have a right to access both information and records/documents (i.e. a right both to ask for information and to apply for specific documents).Score 1 point for only documents, 1 point for information2 YES 1.3.5: "“Private Bodies” include any entity, business or otherwise, owned by private persons." expansive definition
7 The right of access applies to the executive branch with no bodies or classes of information excluded.This includes executive (cabinet) and adminsitration including all ministries, departments, local government, public schools, public health care bodies, the police, the armed forces, security services, and bodies owned or controlled by the above.Score 4 points for central government agencies covered: 1 for the head of state, 1 for ministries, 1 for other non-statutory agencies created by the ministries, 1 for state and local government if the government is unitary. If it´s a federalist system, 2 points for the non-statutory agencies. This can be determined by examining the length and thoroughness of the list, if such a schedule exists. Score 1 point for the archives. Add three points and deduct 1 for each exempted central agency (such as the armed forces, police, etc).8 YES 1.3.2: "“Access to information “refers to the right of the public to request, receive, review, reproduce and retain records and documents held by public bodies and private entities performing public functions or receiving public funding." 1.3.6: "“Public Authorities” means any agency, ministry, or institution of the Government of Liberia or person acting on behalf of such agency, ministry or institution;" 1.3.7: "“Public Bodies” refer to all agencies, entities, corporations, bodies and other institutions owned, wholly or substantially by the Government of Liberia." 1.3.2 definition seems expansive enough - plus 1.3.6 and 1.3.7
8 The right of access applies to the legislature, including both administrative and other information, with no bodies excluded. Score 1 point if the law only applies to administrative documents, 2-3 points if some bodies excluded, 4 points if all legislative branch at all levels of government4 YES 1.3.2: "“Access to information “refers to the right of the public to request, receive, review, reproduce and retain records and documents held by public bodies and private entities performing public functions or receiving public funding." 1.3.6: "“Public Authorities” means any agency, ministry, or institution of the Government of Liberia or person acting on behalf of such agency, ministry or institution;" 1.3.7: "“Public Bodies” refer to all agencies, entities, corporations, bodies and other institutions owned, wholly or substantially by the Government of Liberia." 1.3.2 definition seems expansive enough - plus 1.3.6 and 1.3.7
9 The right of access applies to the judicial branch, including both administrative and other information, with no bodies excluded. Score 1 point if the law only applies to administrative documents, 2-3 points if some bodies excluded, 4 points if all judicial branch at all levels of government4 YES 1.3.2: "“Access to information “refers to the right of the public to request, receive, review, reproduce and retain records and documents held by public bodies and private entities performing public functions or receiving public funding." 1.3.6: "“Public Authorities” means any agency, ministry, or institution of the Government of Liberia or person acting on behalf of such agency, ministry or institution;" 1.3.7: "“Public Bodies” refer to all agencies, entities, corporations, bodies and other institutions owned, wholly or substantially by the Government of Liberia." 1.3.2 definition seems expansive enough - plus 1.3.6 and 1.3.7
10 The right of access applies to State-owned enterprises (commercial entities that are owned or controlled by the State). Score 1 point if some, 2 points if all2 YES 1.3.2: "“Access to information “refers to the right of the public to request, receive, review, reproduce and retain records and documents held by public bodies and private entities performing public functions or receiving public funding." 1.3.6: "“Public Authorities” means any agency, ministry, or institution of the Government of Liberia or person acting on behalf of such agency, ministry or institution;" 1.3.7: "“Public Bodies” refer to all agencies, entities, corporations, bodies and other institutions owned, wholly or substantially by the Government of Liberia." 1.3.2 definition seems expansive enough - plus 1.3.6 and 1.3.7
11 The right of access applies to other public authorities, including constitutional, statutory and oversight bodies (such as an election commission or information commission/er). Score 1 point if some bodies, 2 points if all2 YES 1.3.2: "“Access to information “refers to the right of the public to request, receive, review, reproduce and retain records and documents held by public bodies and private entities performing public functions or receiving public funding." 1.3.6: "“Public Authorities” means any agency, ministry, or institution of the Government of Liberia or person acting on behalf of such agency, ministry or institution;" 1.3.7: "“Public Bodies” refer to all agencies, entities, corporations, bodies and other institutions owned, wholly or substantially by the Government of Liberia." 1.3.2 definition seems expansive enough - plus 1.3.6 and 1.3.7
12 The right of access applies to a) private bodies that perform a public function and b) private bodies that receive significant public funding. 1 point for public functions, 1 point for public funding 2 YES 1.3.2: "“Access to information “refers to the right of the public to request, receive, review, reproduce and retain records and documents held by public bodies and private entities performing public functions or receiving public funding."

Requesting Procedures

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Comments
13 Requesters are not required to provide reasons for their requests.Y/N answer 0 or 2 points2 YES 3.5: "Reason for Request: The right to request information is independent of personal interest in the information, and no one shall be a sked or required to provide a justification or reason for requesting any information."
14 Requesters are only required to provide the details necessary for identifying and delivering the information (i.e. some form of address for delivery).Score Max 2 points and deduct if requesters are required to give any of the following: ID number, telephone number, residential address, etc.2 YES 3.2: "Request for Information: Every person, irrespective of their nationality or residence, may request, receive, reproduce and retain any information held by (1) a public authority or (2) private entity that receives public funds or engage in public functions or provision of public service; provided that in respect of private entities, the information shall relate to the public funds, benefit, functions or service." 3.3: "Description of information Requested: Every request shall describe the information requested with reasonable details that would enable the public authority or private entity easily identify the information. Additional specification of the information may be provided by the requester by any means and at any time, including in responses to questions from personnel of the authority or entity." 3.4: "Form of Request: Request for information may be filed in writing, by electronic mail, or orally in person, or by any alternative means." 3.2 - 3.4 seems to imply that users don't have to provide anything more than what's necessary to identify the document.
15 There are clear and relatively simple procedures for making requests. Requests may be submitted by any means of communication, with no requirement to use official forms or to state that the information is being requested under the access to information law.Max 2 points. Considerations include that there is no requirement to state that the request is under the RTI law, nor to use an official form, nor to identify the document being sought. 2 YES 3.3: "Description of information Requested: Every request shall describe the information requested with reasonable details that would enable the public authority or private entity easily identify the information. Additional specification of the information may be provided by the requester by any means and at any time, including in responses to questions from personnel of the authority or entity." 3.4: "Form of Request: Request for information may be filed in writing, by electronic mail, or orally in person, or by any alternative means."
16 Public officials are required provide assistance to help requesters formulate their requests, or to contact and assist requesters where requests that have been made are vague, unduly broad or otherwise need clarification. Score 1 point for help in formulation and 1 point for clarification procedures2 YES 3.6: "Designation of at least one personnel / staff: Every public authority and private entity to which this Act applies shall appoint, maintain and duly support at least one designated personnel/staff whose overall responsibility shall be to receive requests for information held by the authority or entity and coordinate the response(s) of the authority or entity to all such requests. The designated personnel / staff shall serve as the primary contact of the authority or agency with the public relative to request for and provision of information, and his responsibilities shall include promoting best practices in record maintenance, storage, and management, and assisting members of the public, especially illiterate and other physically challenged persons, to file requests for information."
17     Public officials are required to provide assistance to requesters who require it because of special needs, for example because they are illiterate or disabled.Score Yes=2 point, No=02 YES 3.6: "Designation of at least one personnel / staff: Every public authority and private entity to which this Act applies shall appoint, maintain and duly support at least one designated personnel/staff whose overall responsibility shall be to receive requests for information held by the authority or entity and coordinate the response(s) of the authority or entity to all such requests. The designated personnel / staff shall serve as the primary contact of the authority or agency with the public relative to request for and provision of information, and his responsibilities shall include promoting best practices in record maintenance, storage, and management, and assisting members of the public, especially illiterate and other physically challenged persons, to file requests for information."
18 Requesters are provided with a receipt or acknowledgement upon lodging a request within a reasonable timeframe, which should not exceed 5 working daysScore 1 point for receipt, 1 point for max 5 working days2 YES 3.8: "Documentary acknowledgement of Request: Upon the receipt of every request, a public authority or private entity shall acknowledge the request in writing and advise the requester of the maximum number of days it shall take to respond to the request."
19 Clear and appropriate procedures are in place for situations where the authority to which a request is directed does not have the requested information. This includes an obligation to inform the requester that the information is not held and to refer the requester to another institution or to transfer the request where the public authority knows where the information is held.Score: 1 point for information not held, 1 for referrals or 2 for transfers2 YES 3.13: "Transfer of Requests: In the event a public authority or private entity receives a request relating to information not held by the authority or entity, such authority or entity shall, with notice to the requester, automatically transfer the request to the public auth ority or private entity known or believed to hold the requested information. A transfer of request shall be made no later than fifteen (15) days after receipt of the request and with prompt notice served the requester." 3.13 - transfers with notification
20 Public authorities are required to comply with requesters’ preferences regarding how they access information, subject only to clear and limited overrides (e.g. to protect a record).Score: 2 points for Yes, only 1 point if some limitations2 NO Not mentioned.
21 Public authorities are required to respond to requests as soon as possible.Score: No=0, Yes=2 points 2 NO No - "promptly" - not asap.
22 There are clear and reasonable maximum timelines (20 working days or less) for responding to requests, regardless of the manner of satisfying the request (including through publication).Score: 1 point for timeframes of 20 working days (or 1 month, 30 days or 4 weeks). Score 2 points for 10 working days (or 15 days, or two weeks) or less.2 Partially 3.9: "Maximum period for responding to Requests: Every public authority and private entity shall respond to every request for information within thirty (30) calendar days; provided that this period shall be extended once upon showing of a reasonable cause." 3.9 - 30 calendar days
23 There are clear limits on timeline extensions (20 working days or less), including a requirement that requesters be notified and provided with the reasons for the extension.---2 Partially 3.9: "Maximum period for responding to Requests: Every public authority and private entity shall respond to every request for information within thirty (30) calendar days; provided that this period shall be extended once upon showing of a reasonable cause." 3.9 - limited to 30 more days, but no requirement of notification
24 It is free to file requests.Score: No=0, Yes=2 points2 YES 3.11: "Provision of Requested information: The search for and provision of requested information shall be done free of charge to the requester, but a public entity may charge such amount as is necessary to cover actual cost of photocopying, transcribing, scanning or other forms of reproduction.
25 There are clear rules relating to access fees, which are set centrally, rather than being determined by individual public authorities. These include a requirement that fees be limited to the cost of reproducing and sending the information (so that inspection of documents and electronic copies are free) and a certain initial number of pages (at least 20) are provided for free. Score 1 point for fees being limited to reproduction and delivery costs and set centrally, 1 point for at least 20 pages free of charge or for fees being optional2 Partially 3.11: "Provision of Requested information: The search for and provision of requested information shall be done free of charge to the requester, but a public entity may charge such amount as is necessary to cover actual cost of photocopying, transcribing, scanning or other forms of reproduction. 3.11 limits charges to the actual cost of production
26   There are fee waivers for impecunious requesters ---2 NO Not mentioned.
27 There are no limitations on or charges for reuse of information received from public bodies, except where a third party (which is not a public authority) holds a legally-protected copyright over the information. Score: No=0, Yes=2 points2 NO Not mentioned.


Exceptions

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28 The standards in the RTI Law trump restrictions on information disclosure (secrecy provisions) in other legislation to the extent of any conflict.Score 4 points for a resounding "yes" and 1/2/3 points if only for some classes of information or for some exceptions. If the state secrets law is not trumped by the RTI law max score is 2 points. 4 YES 1.7: "Primacy of Act: Save for the Constitution, this Act is and shall be the primary law governing the right of access to information, including all matters related to request for and provision of information in Liberia. No administrative action, order or regulation contrary to, inconsistent with, or in derogation of this Act shall issue or be effective in Liberia, and this Act shall prevail over any and all subsequent inconsistent statutes, except a subsequent statute that specifically amends or repeals it."
29 The exceptions to the right of access are consistent with international standards. Permissible exceptions are: national security; international relations; public health and safety; the prevention, investigation and prosecution of legal wrongs; privacy; legitimate commercial and other economic interests; management of the economy; fair administration of justice and legal advice privilege; conservation of the environment; and legitimate policy making and other operations of public authorities. It is also permissible to refer requesters to information which is already publicly available, for example online or in published form.Score 10 points and then deduct 1 point for each exception which either (a) falls outside of this list and/or (b) is more broadly framed10 YES
30 A harm test applies to all exceptions, so that it is only where disclosure poses a risk of actual harm to a protected interest that it may be refused. Score 4 points and then deduct 1 point for each exception which is not subject to the harm test 4 YES 4.4: "Trade Secrets: A document or record is exempted from disclosure or public access if its disclosure under this Act would reveal trade secrets belonging to a public authority or a private entity, or destroy the commercial value or affect the competitiveness of a public authority or private entity in relation to the business or work of the authority or entity; provided that this provisions shall not be construed to apply to: (a) Information on the general business or professional affairs of the authority or private entity; or (b) Information on the business, commercial or financial affairs of an undertaking of which that person, or a person on whose behalf that person made the request, is a proprietor." 4.8: "(b) That the disclosure of the information will cause or likely to cause injury or substantial harm to the interest protected by one or more of the exemptions established in this Act; and (c) The harm to be caused by the disclosure is greater than the public interest in having the information disclosed." 4.4 - trade secrets isn't harm tested… but 4(8)(b) and (c) imply an internal harm test, so I didn't dock a point.
31 There is a mandatory public interest override so that information must be disclosed where this is in the overall public interest, even if this may harm a protected interest. There are ‘hard’ overrides (which apply absolutely), for example for information about human rights, corruption or crimes against humanity.Consider whether the override is subject to overarching limitations, whether it applies to only some exceptions, and whether it is mandatory.4 YES 4.8(c): "The harm to be caused by the disclosure is greater than the public interest in having the information disclosed."
32 Information must be released as soon as an exception ceases to apply (for example, for after a contract tender process decision has been taken). The law contains a clause stating that exceptions to protect public interests do not apply to information which is over 20 years old.Score 1 point for each2 YES 4.9: "Maximum period for non disclosure: Informa tion or records exempted from disclosure or public may remain exempted for as long as the reason for their exemption exists, but in any event no longer than a continuous period of fifteen (15) years)."
33 Clear and appropriate procedures are in place for consulting with third parties who provided information which is the subject of a request on a confidential basis. Public authorities shall take into account any objections by third parties when considering requests for information, but third parties do not have veto power over the release of information.Score: 1 point for consultation, 1 further point if original time frames must be respected and the law allows for expedited appeals.2 NO Not mentioned.
34 There is a severability clause so that where only part of a record is covered by an exception the remainder must be disclosed. Score 1 point if yes but sometimes can be refused (eg: if deletions render meaningless the document) and 2 points if partial access must always be granted2 YES 4.7: "Partial Exemption: Where a portion of a document or record falls under the exemptions established in Sections 4.2 thru 4.6 above, only the exempted part(s) of the requested document shall be redacted from the original document and remaining portion released."
35 When refusing to provide access to information, public authorities must a) state the exact legal grounds and reason(s) for the refusal and b) inform the applicant of the relevant appeals procedures.Score Y/N: 1 point for a and 1 point for b2 Partially 3.12: "Denial of Requests: A request for information, including to inspect, review or reproduce the information, may be lawfully denied only if it is within one of the exemptions provided in Chapter 4 of this Act. A denial of a request and the reason thereof shall be in writing and served the requester no later than 30 calendar days as of the receipt of the request." 3.12 - reasons, but no appeal information


Appeals

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Comments
36 The law offers an internal appeal which is simple, free of charge and completed within clear timelines (20 working days or less).Score 2 points if the internal appeal fulfills these criteria, 1 point if an appeal is offered that does not fulfill this criteria, 0 for no internal appeals.2 YES 6.2: "Internal Review: An applicant who receives a negative decision or action regarding a request for information or who believes that the transfer of his or her request or the fees charged by the public body or private entity are inconsistent with this law shall in all cases be entitled to an internal review of the action or decision. Such internal review shall be conducted by a senior official or an in ternal information request review body to be established by each authority or agency. An internal review shall be concluded within thirty (30) working days as of its filing by the applicant. The outcome of each internal review shall be in writing and copies shared with the applicant."
37 Requesters have the right to lodge an (external) appeal with an independent administrative oversight body (e.g. an information commission or ombudsman). 1 for partial, 2 for yes2 YES 6.1: "Right of Appeal: In all events where a request for information is denied and or not responded to, or an action of a public body or private entity in respect of the transfer or any handling of such request if is alleged not to be in keeping with this law, the applicant shall hav e a right to appeal the decision or action of the public authority or private entity concerned." 6.3: "Complaints to the Independent Information Commissioner: Where (i) an applicant receives a negative decision or action and (ii) is not satisfied with the outcome of an internal review conducted pursuant to Section 6.2, such applicant shall have a right to appeal the decision of the authority or entity directly to the Independent Information Commissioner. The Independent Information Commissioner shall be the final administrative arbiter of all complaints concerning denial of information requests and any other alleged infringement of the right of access established under this Act. A final decision of the Independent information officer may include any of the civil sanctions provided for in Chapter 7 of this Act."
38 The member(s) of the oversight body are appointed in a manner that is protected against political interference and have security of tenure so they are protected against arbitrary dismissal (procedurally/substantively) once appointed.Score: 1 point for appointment procedure, 1 point for security of tenure2 Partially 5.1: "Oversight Body: The implementation of this Act, including compliance therewith, shall be overseen an independent Information Commissioner to be appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Liberian Senate. The Independent Information Commissioner shall be a Liberian of high moral character and generally acceptable to many stakeholders. The Independent Information Commissioner shall serve full-time, and receive compensation at least equal to that receive by a Circuit Judge. The work of the Information Commissioner and the Technical Secretariat to support his or her work shall be funded by the Government through the National budget. The Informational Commissioner shall enjoy operational, investigatory and regulatory autonomy, and general independence in the exercise of his or her work." 5.1 - appointed by president with consent of senate, and mentions need that they be acceptable to many stakeholders.
39 The oversight body reports to and has its budget approved by the parliament, or other effective mechanisms are in place to protect its financial independence.Score 1 point for reports to parliament, 1 point for budget approved by parliament2 Partially 5.1: "Oversight Body: The implementation of this Act, including compliance therewith, shall be overseen an independent Information Commissioner to be appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Liberian Senate. The Independent Information Commissioner shall be a Liberian of high moral character and generally acceptable to many stakeholders. The Independent Information Commissioner shall serve full-time, and receive compensation at least equal to that receive by a Circuit Judge. The work of the Information Commissioner and the Technical Secretariat to support his or her work shall be funded by the Government through the National budget. The Informational Commissioner shall enjoy operational, investigatory and regulatory autonomy, and general independence in the exercise of his or her work." 5.1 - ties info commissioner's salary to that of a circuit court judge - protect financial independence. But budget goes through the national budget, so could be defunded.
40 There are prohibitions on individuals with strong political connections from being appointed to this body and requirements of professional expertise.Score 1 point for not politically connected, 1 point for professional expertise2 NO 5.1: "Oversight Body: The implementation of this Act, including compliance therewith, shall be overseen an independent Information Commissioner to be appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Liberian Senate. The Independent Information Commissioner shall be a Liberian of high moral character and generally acceptable to many stakeholders. The Independent Information Commissioner shall serve full-time, and receive compensation at least equal to that receive by a Circuit Judge. The work of the Information Commissioner and the Technical Secretariat to support his or her work shall be funded by the Government through the National budget. The Informational Commissioner shall enjoy operational, investigatory and regulatory autonomy, and general independence in the exercise of his or her work." 5.1 - requirement for "high moral character" - but no prof. expertise.
41 The independent oversight body has the necessary mandate and power to perform its functions, including to review classified documents and inspect the premises of public bodies.Score 1 point for reviewing classified documents, 1 point for inspection powers2 Partially 5.2: "Functions and Powers of Information Commissioner: Without limiting the generality of the provisions of Clause 5.1 above, the functions and powers of the Independent Information Commissioner shall include: a) To receive, hear and decide all complaints as well as mediate disputes arising under this Act. b) To compel witnesses and evidence for the purpose of deciding appeal or otherwise determining compliance with this Act. c) To review information held by public bodies and covered private entities and, in connection therewith, including procedures for the internal reviews provided in Section Chapter (6) of this Act as well as the fees charged by public bodies and entities for reproduction of requested information. d) To issue cease and desist orders and other recommendations to any or all of such public bodies and relevant private entities relative to implementation and compliance with this law. e) To investigate, monitor, and promote compliance with this Act, including collecting stati stics associated therewith. f) To order any public body or private body concerned to release requested information should it find that the information or record is not one that is exempted by this Act. g) To train and build the capacity of personnel of publ ic bodies and private entities concerned to ensure (1) proper interpretation and application of this Act and (2) that the handling of information requests is consistent across all government bodies. h) To consult with and provide support to Information Off icers and other relevant officials of public bodies and private entities covered under this Act. i) To develop access guidelines and procedures. j) To develop public awareness strategies and information dissemination campaigns to educate the public about their rights under the Act, and promoting necessary compliance with this Act. k) To evaluate existing laws and regulations relating to access to information, and to make recommendations for reform and harmonization of the laws. 5.2 - can compel witnesses and evidence, and seems to have the power to review any documents. No word on inspection powers.
42 The decisions of the independent oversight body are binding. Score N=0, Y=2 points2 YES 6.3: "Complaints to the Independent Information Commissioner: Where (i) an applicant receives a negative decision or action and (ii) is not satisfied with the outcome of an internal review conducted pursuant to Section 6.2, such applicant shall have a right to appeal the decision of the authority or entity directly to the Independent Information Commissioner. The Independent Information Commissioner shall be the final administrative arbiter of all complaints concerning denial of information requests and any other alleged infringement of the right of access established under this Act. A final decision of the Independent information officer may include any of the civil sanctions provided for in Chapter 7 of this Act.
43 In deciding an appeal, the independent oversight body has the power to order appropriate remedies for the requester, including the declassification of information. 1 for partial, 2 for fully2 YES 5.2(f): "To order any public body or private body concerned to release requested information should it find that the information or record is not one that is exempted by this Act."
44 Requesters have the right to lodge a judicial appeal.1 for partially, 2 for fully.2 YES 6.5: "Right of Judicial Review: Any person who is not successful in an internal review and in respect of a appeal taken from t he internal review to the Independent Information Commissioner shall have a right to a judicial review. An appeal from the decision of the Information Commissioner shall lie before the Civil Law Court in Montserrado County and in the Circuit Court of the county where the public body or private entity is located."
45 Appeals to the oversight body (where applicable, or to the judiciary if no such body exists) are free of charge and do not require legal assistance.1 for free, 1 for no lawyer required. 2 NO Not mentioned.
46 The grounds for appeal to the oversight body (where applicable, or to the judiciary if no such body exists) are broad (including not only refusals to provide information but also refusals to provide information in the form requested, administrative silence and other breach of timelines, charging excessive fees, etc.).Score 1 point for appealing refusals, additional points for appealing other violations.4 YES The law gives the information commissioner wide discretion over reviewing practices.
47 Clear procedures, including timelines, are in place for dealing with external appeals (oversight/judicial).Score 1 point for clear procedures, 1 point for timelines. 2 NO No timelines, no procedures - though hopefully our expert can tell us if these are in the regulations.
48 In the appeal process (oversight/judicial/) the government bears the burden of demonstrating that it did not operate in breach of the rules.Score Y/N and award 2 points for yes. 2 YES 6.4: "Burden of Proof: In both (i) an internal review conducted by an authority or agency pursuant to Section 6.2 and (ii) a hearing conducted by the Independent information Commissioner pursuant to Section 6.3 hereof, the burden of proof shall be on the public authority or private entity to show that it acted consistent with its obligations and in accordance with this Act."
49 The external appellate body has the power to impose appropriate structural measures on the public authority (e.g. to conduct more training or to engage in better record management)1 for partial, 2 for fully. 2 Partially 5.2: "Functions and Powers of Information Commissioner: Without limiting the generality of the provisions of Clause 5.1 above, the functions and powers of the Independent Information Commissioner shall include: a) To receive, hear and decide all complaints as well as mediate disputes arising under this Act. b) To compel witnesses and evidence for the purpose of deciding appeal or otherwise determining compliance with this Act. c) To review information held by public bodies and covered private entities and, in connection therewith, including procedures for the internal reviews provided in Section Chapter (6) of this Act as well as the fees charged by public bodies and entities for reproduction of requested information. d) To issue cease and desist orders and other recommendations to any or all of such public bodies and relevant private entities relative to implementation and compliance with this law. e) To investigate, monitor, and promote compliance with this Act, including collecting stati stics associated therewith. f) To order any public body or private body concerned to release requested information should it find that the information or record is not one that is exempted by this Act. g) To train and build the capacity of personnel of publ ic bodies and private entities concerned to ensure (1) proper interpretation and application of this Act and (2) that the handling of information requests is consistent across all government bodies. h) To consult with and provide support to Information Off icers and other relevant officials of public bodies and private entities covered under this Act. i) To develop access guidelines and procedures. j) To develop public awareness strategies and information dissemination campaigns to educate the public about their rights under the Act, and promoting necessary compliance with this Act. k) To evaluate existing laws and regulations relating to access to information, and to make recommendations for reform and harmonization of the laws." 5.2 - Can issue cease and desist orders and recommendations - no word on how they are binding though.


Sanctions & Proteccions

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Description

Scoring instructions
MAX score
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50 Sanctions may be imposed on those who wilfully act to undermine the right to information, including through the unauthorised destruction of information.Score 1 point for sanctions for underming right, 1 point for destruction of documents 2 YES 7.1: "Fines for violations: The person deemed responsible for a public authority or private entity to violate this act will be subject to a fine not less than L$5,000 and not greater than L$10,000.00 in addition to reimbursement of any reasonable attorney costs incurred by the successful applicant." 7.1 - direct fines for anyone violating the act.
51 There is a system for redressing the problem of public authorities which systematically fail to disclose information or underperform (either through imposing sanctions on them or requiring remedial actions of them).Score 1 point for either remedial action or sanctions, 2 points for both 2 YES 7.1: "Fines for violations: The person deemed responsible for a public authority or private entity to violate this act will be subject to a fine not less than L$5,000 and not greater than L$10,000.00 in addition to reimbursement of any reasonable attorney costs incurred by the successful applicant." 7.2: "Dismissal: A public servant who without authorization and any legal basis wrongfully denies an applicant access to information or otherwise violate a person’s right of access shall be subject to a fine of not less than L$5,000 and not greater than L$10,000 plus a formal reprimand for the first wrongful conduct. The person shall be suspended for two months without pay for the second offense, and immediate dismissal for the third time of violation." 7.3: "When Civil Sanctions may be imposed: The fines established in Section 7.1 and the personnel actions provided for in Section 7.2 hereof may be imposed by an authority or entity or the Independent Information Commissioner at the end of an internal review or a hearing consistent with due process." 7.4: "Criminal Sanction for Willful Destruction of Records: It shall be a criminal offence punishable on conviction with a maximum of two (2) years imprisonment for willfully destroying or altering records after that have are the subject of a request for information." Sanctions under 7.1 - 7.4. Structural solutions can be imposed by the information commissioner.
52 The independent oversight body and its staff are granted legal immunity for acts undertaken in good faith in the exercise or performance of any power, duty or function under the RTI Law. Others are granted similar immunity for the good faith release of information pursuant to the RTI Law.Score 1 for oversight body, 1 for immunity for others2 YES 7.5: "Protection from civil and criminal liability: Any person who discloses information or grant access to information in good-faith reliance on the provision of this Act shall be protected from any and all civil and criminal liabilities, even if it is later determined that the information was in fact exempted. Similar protection shall be accorded all persons that receive information pursuant to this Act."
53 There are legal protections against imposing sanctions on those who, in good faith, release information which discloses wrongdoing (i.e. whistleblowers).Score 2 for strong protections, 1 for moderate protections2 Partially 7.5: "Protection from civil and criminal liability: Any person who discloses information or grant access to information in good-faith reliance on the provision of this Act shall be protected from any and all civil and criminal liabilities, even if it is later determined that the information was in fact exempted. Similar protection shall be accorded all persons that receive information pursuant to this Act." 7.5 - not specifically a whistleblower protection, but it works that way when read in conjunction with the public interest override. Only protects from civil and criminal liability though - not from other sanctions.


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54 Public authorities are required to appoint dedicated officials (information officers) or units with a responsibility for ensuring that they comply with their information disclosure obligations.Score Y/N, Y=2 points2 YES 3.6: "Designation of at least one personnel / staff: Every public authority and private entity to which this Act applies shall appoint, maintain and duly support at least one designated personnel/staff whose overall responsibility shall be to receive requests for information held by the authority or entity and coordinate the response(s) of the authority or entity to all such requests. The designated personnel / staff shall serve as the primary contact of the authority or agency with the public relative to request for and provision of information, and his responsibilities shall include promoting best practices in record maintenance, storage, and management, and assisting members of the public, especially illiterate and other physically challenged persons, to file requests for information."
55 A central body, such as an information commission(er) or government department, is given overall responsibility for promoting the right to information. Score Y/N, Y=2 points2 YES 1.3.6: "“Independent Human Rights Commission” means the autonomous commission established by an Act of the legislature, which shall have oversight responsibility for the effective implementation of this Act." 5.1: "Oversight Body: The implementation of this Act, including compliance therewith, shall be overseen an independent Information Commissioner to be appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Liberian Senate. The Independent Information Commissioner shall be a Liberian of high moral character and generally acceptable to many stakeholders. The Independent Information Commissioner shall serve full-time, and receive compensation at least equal to that receive by a Circuit Judge. The work of the Information Commissioner and the Technical Secretariat to support his or her work shall be funded by the Government through the National budget. The Informational Commissioner shall enjoy operational, investigatory and regulatory autonomy, and general independence in the exercise of his or her work." 1.3.6 gives the human rights commission this responsibility. 5.1 also gives responsibility to an information commissioner.
56 Public awareness-raising efforts (e.g. producing a guide for the public or introducing RTI awareness into schools) are required to be undertaken by law. Score Y/N, Y=2 points2 YES 5.2(j): "To develop public awareness strategies and information dissemination campaigns to educate the public about their rights under the Act, and promoting necessary compliance with this Act." The publication scheme under 2,2 does not include a guide for the public, but 5.2(j) covers this.
57 A system is in place whereby minimum standards regarding the management of records are set and applied. Score Y/N, Y=2 points2 YES 3.6: "Designation of at least one personnel / staff: Every public authority and private entity to which this Act applies shall appoint, maintain and duly support at least one designated personnel/staff whose overall responsibility shall be to receive requests for information held by the authority or entity and coordinate the response(s) of the authority or entity to all such requests. The designated personnel / staff shall serve as the primary contact of the authority or agency with the public relative to request for and provision of information, and his responsibilities shall include promoting best practices in record maintenance, storage, and management, and assisting members of the public, especially illiterate and other physically challenged persons, to file requests for information." 3.6 - the information officer is charged with promoting better standards within each body.
58 Public authorities are required to create and update lists or registers of the documents in their possession, and to make these public. Score Y/N, Y=2 points2 YES 2.2(c): "A fair description of the types and categories of documents and information held by the public authority, the location of the documents, and a clear statement of the public right to review, request, receive and retain copies of any of such documents or information;"
59 Training programs for officials are required Score Y/N, Y=2 points2 YES 5.2(g): "To train and build the capacity of personnel of public bodies and private entities concerned to ensure (1) proper interpretation and application of this Act and (2) that the handling of information requests is consistent across all government bodies."
60 Public authorities are required to report annually on the actions they have taken to implement their disclosure obligations. This includes statistics on requests received and how they were dealt with. Score Y/N, Y=2 points2 YES 5.3: "Annual Reports: All public bodies and private entities to which this Act applies shall submit to the Independent Information Commissioner report concerning activities carried out during the preceding year in relation to this Act. The annual report shall be submitted at a time to be determined by the Independent Information Commissioner, and shall include: (a) the number of requests for access to documents or records or other type of information received by the public authority or private body as the case may be between January 1 and December 31 of the preceding year, and the number of applications which the public authority or private body processed during the period. (b) the number of requests for access to information pending before the public authority or private body as the case may be as of December 31 of the preceding year and the number of days that each of those requests had been pending before the public authority or private body as of the date of the submission of the report. (c) the number of requests where the public authority or the private body as the case may be declined access to records or documents requested by members of the public under this Act and the reasons for each such refusal of access. (d) the average number of days it takes the public authority or private body to process different types of requests for access to information, records or documents; (e) the total amount of fees collected by the public authority or private body as the case may be to process such requests; and (f) A description of the steps or efforts taken by the responsible Minister or Chief Executive of the public authority or private body as the case may be to encourage all officers under his or her charge to comply with the provisions of this Act."
61 A central body, such as an information commission(er) or government department, has an obligation to present a consolidated report to the legislature on implementation of the law. Score Y/N, Y=2 points2 YES 5.4: "Annual Report to the Legislature: The Independent Information Commissioner shall include in its annual report to the National Legislature a full account of the status of implementation of the Act."