Let’s dismantle  bureaucratic   gatekeeping

Let’s dismantle bureaucratic gatekeeping

THE other day I was watching the news when I heard the Deputy Minister of Health ‘Manthabiseng Phohleli emphasising the need to ensure that information on health-related issues is easily accessible.
Her statement made me excited but my excitement did not last long as I remembered the real situation on the ground when it comes to access of information in Lesotho. I believe her statement came out of genuine concern for what she has also witnessed herself with regard to scarcity of information dissemination in her ministry.
The issue of access to information took me a few years back to my days as a student at the National University of Lesotho (NUL). One of my lecturers was busy with his PhD and he told us we should never consider using Lesotho in our studies in future as we will struggle with getting information.

He stated that the red tape involved and the bureaucratic gatekeeping with regards to access to information is just too much. I did not really comprehend what he meant. Besides I was an undergraduate student learning to be a teacher and I never really thought much about research then.
Fast forward about 10 years later when I decided to further my own studies, the words of my lecturer proved to be true. I had decided to conduct my research on HIV/AIDS policy for schools in Lesotho. Getting the policy was not an easy feat. I was thrown from pillar to post at the Ministry of Education, not because the policy did not exist but because the people I asked to assist me did not know where I could get such a policy.

Remember Lesotho is currently the second highest in terms of HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in the world but personnel in the Ministry of Education were oblivious to the existence of a policy meant to improve and protect them against the pandemic, an ironical situation if I may say.

All was not gloom for me as I ended up being lent a copy of the policy by a friend of a relative who worked in another department in the ministry.
The reason for getting a ‘borrowed’ copy was because there were no copies available at the ministry and none had ever been sent to the Government Printers. The policy was and is still not available online even today despite the fact that it was promulgated in 2012, some six years ago.
Another area that the Lesotho government should seriously look into with regard to making information easily accessible is to revive the ministries’ websites and make sure they are up to date and functional.

After all we are living in the 21st century and we do not need to be hopping from one government office to the other to get a policy or any form of legislation. A click on the smart phone, tablet or computer should be enough. It is also important to note that not all people who need information on Lesotho are in the country and by not availing those documents online it is a very big inconvenience to them.

Bureaucratic gatekeepers that request users to write a letter to the Director just to get access to an HIV policy should be eradicated in all forms.
We are experiencing an increase in illnesses because of ignorance and poor or lack of dissemination to the general public of important documents.
It is time for the Ministry of Communications to ensure smooth communication of government documents, policies and legislation to the people. The Deputy Minister of Health has started the race, it is upon other ministries to take the baton and ensure that the race is completed.

By: Kelello Rakolobe

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