Article 41 of the Constitution grants every Ugandan citizen a right to access to information of the State or any other organ or agency of the State except where the release of the information is likely to prejudice the security or sovereignty of the State or interfere with the right to privacy of any person
However, the Access to Information Act 2005 came up with more exemption where the information officer may refuse to give the requested information, case in point is Section (33) (1)(a)(ii) of the Access to Information Act 2005, which also states that an information officer of a public body may refuse a request for access if the record contains an opinion, advice, report or recommendation obtained or prepared or an account of a consultation, discussion or deliberation that has occurred, including, but limited to, minutes of a meeting, for the purpose of assisting to take a decision in the exercise of a power or performance of a duty conferred
Clause 26(6) of the Environmental Impact Assessment Public Hearing Guidelines states that the report submitted by the presiding officer to the lead agency and the Authority remains confidential, but shall be made public after the executive director has made a decision.
Due to such a provision, citizens have been denied a right to actively participate in environmental conservation because this information is necessary to enable citizens to participate meaningfully in decisions that directly affect citizen’s livelihood and environment.
For example, the public has never been able to access the presiding officer’s report from the public hearing that were held in Buliisa and Nwoya districts on November 12 and 15, 2018.
Even after Nema made a decision and granted a Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) certificate for the Tilenga Oil Project, the public were not given feedback to check whether their information was considered according to the presiding officers report
This is dangerous for environmental conservation and protection of community livelihoods and the provisions of the Access to Information Act limiting the access of information above what is provided in the Constitution must be challenged in courts of law.