Freedom Forum Nepal welcomes the National Information Commission (NIC)'s verdict in the name of Nepal Government Finance Ministry secretary, Krishna Hari Baskota, to impart information about the multimillion Value Added Tax (VAT) scam involving around 518 business community people.
'It is laudable for the NIC issuing verdict to provide with a photocopy of the VAT evasion study report-2067 BS including its annexes 1, 4 and 7 free of cost by upholding the spirit of the Right to Information (RTI Act-2007', said Freedom Forum Chairperson information requester Taranath Dahal.
Mr. Dahal had filed an appeal with the NIC in line with the Right to Information (RTI) Regulation-2008 on August 15 2011, citing dissatisfaction over the Finance Ministry's decision of non-disclosure of information on tax evaders.
Through the verdict, the NIC has not only issued directives to the Finance Ministry to uphold the letter and spirit of the RTI as a commitment to promote openness and transparency but also explained the overriding effect of RTI laws on other legal arrangements.
The NIC realizes the importance of public domain by directing the Finance Secretary and Information Officer to provide information on VAT scam fraud within 15 days', Dahal added.
'It is not good for the government's higher body like Finance Ministry having no awareness regarding the compliance of RTI Act and Regulations and adequate arrangement for imparting information', the verdict reads.
However, we do have still reservation on the NIC's verdict for liberating the concerned officials from action for not providing the publicly important information for around 120 days from the date of filing application.
Another surprise comes when the NIC issued directives to provide the information of partial annexes of the report while the requester demanded all the details from annex 1 to 7 of the report.
Mr Dahal, as per the Right to Information Act, had filed an application in the Finance Minister on May 18, 2011, seeking detail information the tax evaders and a complete photocopy of a report of a probe committee on VAT evasion but in vain.
After all, the verdict has come to protect and promote information culture. We are hopeful that the information will be obtained as per the verdict and it will serve as a solid base for promoting transparency and good governance by the government bodies to account.