KUWAIT: Law of Access to Information reflects Kuwait’s commitment to undertaking necessary measures in combating corruption and bolstering principles of transparency, as it grants individuals the right to obtain information held by public entities. The law, approved by the National Assembly back in August 2020 and commenced implementation in March 2021, is a crucial step towards achieving administrative transparency and boosting governmental accountability.
Article (2) of the law stipulates that every person has the right to access and obtain information held by public entities .. the person has the right to access administrative decisions that affect his rights and familiarize himself with information contained in any document that relates to him. Speaking to Kuwait News Agency (KUNA), Head of Investigations division in the anti-corruption authority (Nazaha), Abdulhameed Al-Hamar stated that approval of such law stems from Kuwait’s efforts in supporting democracy, and cementing political and civil rights. He mentioned that this improved Kuwait’s ranking on Corruption Perceptions Index, adding that the improvement seen in (2019-2021), by three grades, is higher than the average rating of Middle Eastern and North African nations.
Al-Hamar added that the law instructs entities to facilitate person’s access to information and ensure its disclosure in the time and manner stipulated in the law, penalties of unjustified withholding of information or providing false data includes incarceration for period of no more than two years and/or fine of no more than KD 3,000 (approx $9,700). He further noted that it is too much soon to evaluate entities’ adherence to law stipulations, as it is fairly new and the monitoring and evaluating process takes time, adding that it is part of Kuwait (2019-2024) strategy to boost integrity and face corruption.
On her part, Assistant Professor of Law at Kuwait University, Dr Muneera Al-Nemash, clarified that the law aims to increase transparency via entities commitment to obligatory disclosure of information, as well as enable individuals to access information and obtain documents. However, Dr Al-Nemash pointed out a deficiency in legislation that could hinder achieving objectives of law, including clearly identifying the information and administrative decisions that could be disclosed, lack of awareness in regards to why an individual would want to obtain such data, and vague instructions to designated employee, leaving large area for exemptions. Head of Kuwait’s Transparency Society, Majed Al-Mutairi, considered this law the most prominent application of boosting principles of transparency in Kuwait, hoping for even more development in that regard.
He added that the law encouraged public entities to adopt voluntary disclosure of information, adding that the society, organized a campaign aimed at entity employees to raise their awareness and instruct them in regards to application of law stipulations and fully comprehending its dimensions. He called on government bodies for more voluntary disclosure and to continue posting guidebook on their website, highlighting importance of raising awareness via media campaigns, and support hotlines to answer queries.
The law specifies that each entity shall designate one or more competent employee to consider requests of information, who must have sufficient experience and knowledge with the necessary authority to search and access the requested information. It also adds that entities shall be committed to publish on their websites within three years from the effective date of this a law a manual that contains lists of the information available for disclosure. Moreover, data compromising public interest including infringement on private lives, or the pursuit of justice, is protected by the law as it also guarantees right of individuals to submit grievances in case their request for information was denied. – KUNA