Parliament has initiated moves that seek to widen the scope of access to information to cover private bodies that perform public functions with state funds.

A report of the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs on the Right to Information Bill, 2013, a copy of which is in the possession of, discusses that the bill in its current form is “too restrictive” and therefore, has proposed that coverage be extended to cover private bodies.

“The Committee has observed that the Bill is applicable to only information held by government agencies. The Committee sees it to be too restrictive and therefore the coverage must be widened to cover private bodies that perform public functions with public funds.”

“The Committee is of the view that the public should be able to have right of access to information in the custody of private bodies or agencies, especially, if the disclosure is in the public interest. It is a fact that in modern governance, non-state actors influence the destinies of millions of people and hence, the necessity to extend the coverage to private bodies.”

To ensure fairness, the Committee has proposed that the term “government body” running through the Bill be substituted with the words “public institution” as done in other jurisdictions.

“This is applicable to both South Africa and Liberia. In both jurisdictions, the right of access to information applies to private entities that receive public resources and benefits or engage in public functions or provides public services, particularly, in respect of information relating to the public resources, benefits or services,” Chairman of the Committee, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin argued in his report that was recently submitted to the plenary for consideration and adoption.