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Application for Access to Information in Kenya

The application for access to information in Kenya fulfils the right of access to information by citizens as provided under Article 35 of the Constitution. Every citizen has the right of access to information held by the State or another person and where that information is required to exercise or protect any right or fundamental freedom.

Subject to the Access to Information Act, every citizen’s right to access information is not affected by any reason the person gives for seeking access or the public entity’s belief as to what are the person’s reasons for seeking access.

Access to information held by a public entity or a private body should be provided expeditiously at a reasonable cost.

A chief executive officer of a public entity should be an information access officer for purposes of the Access to Information Act. The chief executive officer may delegate the performance of their duties as an information access officer to any officer of the public entity.

Application for access to information in Kenya

An application to access information should be in writing in English or Kiswahili. The applicant should provide details and sufficient particulars for the public officer or any other official to understand what information they are requesting.

Where an applicant is unable to make a written request for access to information because of illiteracy or disability, the information officer should take the necessary steps to ensure that the applicant requests in a manner that meets their needs.

The information officer should reduce to writing, in a prescribed form the request made by the person with illiteracy or disability. The information officer should then furnish the applicant with a copy of the written request.

A public entity may prescribe a form for making an application to access information. However, any such form should not be such as to unreasonably delay requests or place an undue burden upon applicants and no application may be rejected on the ground only that the applicant has not used the prescribed form.

Processing of application for access to information in Kenya

Subject to section 10 of the Access to Information Act (see the transfer of application section below), a public officer should decide on an application as soon as possible, but in any event, within twenty-one days of receipt of the application

Where the information sought concerns the life or liberty of a person, the information officer should provide the information within forty-eight hours of the receipt of the application.

The information officer to whom a request is made concerning the life or liberty of a person may extend the period for the response on a single occasion for not more than fourteen days if—

  • the request is for a large amount of information or requires a search through a large amount of information and meeting the stipulated time would unreasonably interfere with the activities of the information holder; or
  • consultations are necessary to comply with the request and the consultations cannot be reasonably completed within the stipulated time.

As soon as the information access officer has decided as to whether to provide access to information, they should immediately communicate the decision to the requester, indicating—

  • whether or not the public entity or private body holds the information sought;
  • whether the request for information is approved:
  • if the request is declined the reasons for making that decision, including the basis for deciding that the information sought is exempt, unless the reasons themselves would be exempt information; and
  • if the request is declined, a statement about how the requester may appeal to the Commission;

The public officer that is to decide on the application may seek the assistance of any other public officer as they consider it necessary to discharge their duties properly. The other public officer should render the required assistance.

Where the applicant does not receive a response to an application within 21 days, the application is deemed to have been rejected.

Transfer of application

An information access officer may, not later than five days from the date of receipt of an application, transfer the application or any relevant part of it, to another public entity, if the public entity holds the information requested.

Where an application is transferred, the information access officer should inform the applicant immediately but in any event not later than seven days from the date of receipt of the application, about such transfer.

A public entity that receives the transfer of application from the information officer should decide on the application within twenty-one days from the date that the application was first made.

These provisions should apply with the necessary modification to an application for access to information that is made to a private body to which the Access to Information Act applies.

Providing access to information

Where a decision is taken to provide the information applied for, an information access officer should send to the applicant a written response within fifteen working days of receipt of the application, advising—

  • that the application has been granted;
  • that the information will be contained in an edited copy, where applicable;
  • the details of any fees or further fees to be paid for access, together with the calculations made to arrive at the amount of the fee;
  • the method of payment of such fees, if any;
  • the proposed process of accessing the information once the payment if any is made; and
  • that an appeal may be made to the Commission on Administrative Justice in respect of the fees required or the form of access proposed to be provided.

Subject to the section above, upon receipt of the fee payable, the information access officer should provide the information to the applicant or permit the relevant inspection immediately but in any event not later than two working days from the date of receipt of the payment.

Any information to be made accessible to an applicant should be produced forthwith at the place where it is kept, for inspection in the form in which it is held unless the applicant requests that it be made available in another form. If it is practicable to do so, such information may be copied, reproduced or used for conversion to a sound transmission at the expense of the applicant.

Where a request for information is to a private body, the provisions above should apply with necessary changes made.

Fees

No fee may be levied with the submission of an application.

A public entity or private body from which receives an application for access to information may charge a prescribed fee for the provision of the information. The fee should not exceed the actual costs of making copies of such information and if applicable, supplying them to the applicant.

The Cabinet Secretary for the time being responsible for matters relating to information should make regulations prescribing the fees payable for expenses incurred in providing information to an applicant.

Correction of information

At the request of the applicant, a public entity or private body should within a reasonable time, at its own expense, correct, update or annotate any personal information held by it relating to the applicant, which is out of date, inaccurate or incomplete.

The request to correct information should be in writing to the public entity responsible for the maintenance of the record system containing the out of date, inaccurate or incomplete information and should—

  • state that it is a request to amend certain personal information relating to the applicant;
  • specify the personal information that is to be amended indicating how such information is out of date, inaccurate or incomplete; and
  • specify the remedy sought by the applicant.

The Ombudsman in Kenya has the power to enforce and review decisions on access to information.

For more information on the application of access to information in Kenya, see the Access to Information Act.

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Gĩthĩnji is the founder of afrocave.com. He is passionate about politics and governance, public finance management and cycling.@Afrophi