RTI requests get NADRA's whistleblower system restored

Islamabad, June 25, 2017: We are delighted to note that following our intervention through Pakistan’s federal right to information system, NADRA has restored its Whistleblower program which it had earlier shut down for unexplained reasons.

In September 2016, Bytes for All initiated the process of filing Right To Information (RTI) requests to various public bodies in Pakistan under the legislative frameworks of Freedom of Information Ordinance (2002), The Punjab Transparency and Right To Information Act (2013), and The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Right To Information Act (2013). All of these requests and following updates can be accessed here.

As part of this process, we filed 11 RTI requests with Pakistan’s National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) asking about its data protection policies and security protocols, corporate transparency, governance, and third-party partner access to citizen’s private information among others. View all requests here. One of these RTI requests was about NADRA’s Whistleblower Program. We requested NADRA to provide us with:

    Certified copies of document(s) of official notification and public disclosure, containing reasons, about the discontinuation of (its) Whistleblower Program.[1]

According to a May 2016 report by law firm Josh and Mak International, NADRA had closed its Whistleblower Program launched only a few years ago. The report stated that the program was being led by a “specialist team of investigative officers”, overseen by NADRA’s chairperson, and was proving effective in curbing corruption within the Authority. Previously, the Whistleblower portal on NADRA’s website allowed NADRA employees and members of the public to either file complaints anonymously or to choose to waive their right to anonymity to be “able to track the progress of their report”; but following NADRA’s unexplained discontinuation of the program, the Whistleblower page on its website continued to display Error 404. Interestingly, following our filing of the RTI request, NADRA completely took down the Whistleblower page from its website for many months.  

While NADRA has not responded to any of our RTI requests, and our RTI case with NADRA is now sub-judice with the Federal Ombudsman of Pakistan, we are delighted to note that  NADRA has finally restored the Whistleblower System page on its website. The page contains an online anonymous reporting option and can be accessed through NADRA’s website homepage or directly at https://www.nadra.gov.pk/whistle-blower-system/.

In these times of big data collection and mass surveillance coupled with corrupt practices, the significance of platforms which facilitate anonymous and safe reporting of institutional wrongdoings and incompetence, cannot be overstated. While we are yet to learn more about the levels of safety and efficacy associated with how NADRA’s relaunched Whistleblower Program works, it is definitely noteworthy that our intervention resulted in bringing about some measurable impact of urging a public body of NADRA’s scale, mandated with centralizing the biometric and other identification databases of the entire citizenry of Pakistan, to relaunch its Whistleblower Program.

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About Bytes for All, Pakistan:

Bytes for All (B4A), Pakistan is a human rights organization and a network of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) professionals and practitioners. It experiments and organizes debate on the relevance of ICTs for sustainable development and strengthening social justice movements in the country. Its mission is “ICTs for development, democracy and social justice”. www.bytesforall.pk