The application for access to information in Kenya fulfils the citizens’ right to access information as provided under Article 35 of the Constitution.
Every citizen has the right to access information held by the State or another person. The right to access information extends where the information is required to exercise or protect a human right or fundamental freedom.
Subject to the Access to Information Act, every citizen’s right to access information is unaffected by any reason the person gives for seeking access or the public entity’s belief about what those reasons are.
Access to information held by a public entity or a private body should be availed as soon as possible and at a reasonable cost.
For the Access to Information Act, the chief executive officer of a public entity should be an information access officer. Any officer of the public entity may be delegated the performance of the chief executive officer’s duties as an information access officer by the chief executive officer.
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 cannot 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 write down the request made by the person with illiteracy or disability in a prescribed form. The applicant should then receive a copy of the written request from the information officer.
A public entity may establish a form for applying for access to information. The design of the application form should not delay requests unreasonably or place an undue burden on applicants. The information officer must not reject an application solely because the applicant did not use the prescribed form.
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 after receiving the application for access to information.
When 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 who receives a request 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
- the information officer requires consultations to comply with the request, and they cannot carry out the consultations reasonably within the time frame.
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:
- the reasons for declining a request, including the basis for deciding that the information sought is exempt unless these reasons would be exempt information; and
- a statement about how the requester may appeal to the Commission on Administrative Justice if the information officer declines their request for information;
The public officer who will decide the application may enlist the help of any other public official if they believe it is necessary to carry out their responsibilities correctly. The other public officer should assist as required.
If the information officer does not provide the applicant with an answer to an application within 21 days, the applicant should consider the application rejected.
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.
When the information officer transfers the request to another public entity, they should inform the applicant about the transfer immediately but in any event not later than seven days from the date of receipt of the application.
A public entity that receives a transfer of the application from the information officer must decide on the application within twenty-one days of its receipt.
These provisions should apply to an application for access to information made to a private body to which the Access to Information Act applies, with the necessary modifications.
When there is a decision to provide the information applied for, an information access officer should send 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 in an edited copy, where applicable;
- the details of any fees or additional fees the applicant has to pay for access and the calculations used to arrive at the fee amount;
- the method of payment of such fees, if any;
- the proposed method of accessing the information once payment, if any, has been made; and
- that the applicant may appeal to the Commission on Administrative Justice regarding the fees required or the form of access proposed to be provided.
Subject to the provisions of the preceding section, upon receipt of the fee payable, the information access officer should provide the information to the applicant or permit the relevant inspection immediately, but no later than two working days from the date of payment.
The information officer should avail any approved information immediately to the applicant at the stored location for inspection. The information should be in the stored form unless the applicant requests the information in another format. If possible, such information may be copied, reproduced, or used for conversion to a sound transmission at the applicant’s expense.
When a request for information is to a private body, the provisions above should apply with necessary changes.
There should be no fee associated with applying for access to information.
A public entity or private body that receives an application for information access may charge a prescribed fee for providing the information. The amount should not exceed the actual costs of copying such information and, if applicable, supplying it to the applicant.
The Cabinet Secretary in charge of information matters should issue regulations establishing the fees payable for expenses incurred in providing information to an applicant.
A public entity or private body should, at the applicant’s request, correct, update, or annotate any personal information it holds relating to the applicant that is out of date, inaccurate, or incomplete within a reasonable time and at its own expense.
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 needs to be updated and explain why it 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.