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TOURISM AUTHORITY MOST SECRETIVE – MISA

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MBABANE –“What 2020 Golden Padlock Award?”

This was a question posed by Eswatini Tourism Authority Marketing Manager Siboniso Madlopha, when told that his organisation scooped the award for being the most secretive with information.

The awards were announced by the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) -Eswatini Chapter during the observation of the Universal Access to Information Day, held at the Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT), yesterday.

Madlopha said they were not even aware that MISA was conducting a research of that nature, or questionnaire that was sent to them. “We would like to know whom the questionnaire was sent to,” he said. Madlopha said they were not even informed of the event where such awards were conducted.

 Relationship 

He noted that as far as he was concerned, ESTA had a very good relationship with the media and also responded to questionnaires and calls made by journalists in all the country’s media houses. Madlopha said they invited journalists and gave them briefing about their events. “On the upcoming World Tourism Day, we will be at Wendy’s Lodge and we have invited the media,” he said.

On the other hand, Manzini Municipal Council received the 2020 Golden Key Award for being an open public organisation. It was noted that the council had made getting in touch easy through the use of online platforms such as Facebook. They also responded timeously to the information request, provided information without questioning the aims and motivations of the applicant, and delivered clear and understandable information within the timeframe provided.

According to MISA Director Vuyisile Hlatshwayo, a MISA Transparency Assessment was conducted around July and August with an objective to figure out if there was easy access to information in public institutions among the Southern African Development Community (SADC) member countries. Organisations that were surveyed during the study included the DPM’s office, Eswatini Revenue Authority (SRA), Eswatini Tourism Authority, Eswatini Youth Enterprise Fund, Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Trade, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Ministry of Tinkhundla Administration and Development, Manzini City Council and NDMA.

This study looked at the citizens’ analysis of government openness in Southern Africa. Hlatshwayo said they assessed about 10 public institutions in the country, which included five government ministries and five parastatals. 

Timeously

He said there were two objectives of the study; to determine which organisations both in government and public provided information to citizens upon request, timeously and with relative ease. Also, he said it was to determine which organisations both utilised online platforms to promote access to information.

He noted that they looked at whether websites were up to date and circulated a questionnaire which was issued in one day to all the institutions which were part of the study in order to assess how quick they were to respond to the questions. 

He said they were expecting the organisations to respond within 14 days to show that they were able to respond quickly to questions within the expected period. 

Hlatshwayo said after 15 to 21 days, those institutions were considered secretive with information. He noted that what was important to understand on the issue of access to information was not only directed to journalist accessing information in time, but also members of the public. 

Further, he said they realised something positive within government institutions and improvement on access to information as most had hired communication officers, which made information to be easily accessible. Hlatshwayo said the study was conducted during a critical time of the COVID-19 pandemic, adding that they also considered that most people required information on how to keep themselves safe. 

“All the organisations that participated in the study were those that were tasked with COVID-19 assignments, hence we expected all public institutions to respond quickly to the questionnaire considering the fact that most people needed the information,” said Hlatshwayo.

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