The Information Commissioner’s Office of Maldives (ICOM) reported a 58% rise in appeals in the first quarter of the year due to non-compliance by state institutions with the Right to Information (RTI) law. This uptick in appeals underscores growing challenges in accessing information, a stark contrast to President Dr Mohamed Muizzu’s promise of a transparent government that would make RTI requests redundant.

At a recent briefing, Information Commissioner Ahid Rasheed highlighted that 90% of the 139 cases brought to ICOM involved authorities failing to respond to RTI requests. Of the 581 RTI applications filed from January to March, only 48% were processed. This lack of responsiveness was particularly pronounced in requests submitted through the Mahoali portal, where many institutions failed to respond or accept inquiries.

An ICOM-Transparency International study from the previous year revealed that merely seven out of 935 government agencies proactively published all required information under the RTI Act. 

The study found a general failure among agencies to fulfil disclosure obligations, with significant shortcomings in the availability and use of websites for publishing information. Despite all government ministries having websites, only 40 out of 53 agencies under these ministries do. Judicial agencies fare slightly better, with all having websites, yet only the Drug Court meets full disclosure requirements.

The analysis also uncovered that while independent institutions perform relatively better, only four out of all independent institutions fully comply with disclosure requirements. State-owned enterprises (SOEs) disclosed only 21% of necessary information, and the healthcare sector remains notably opaque, with minimal online presence and inadequate information release. This trend extends to the education sector, where no provider meets all nine voluntary disclosure requirements.

These findings highlight a troubling gap between legislative requirements and actual practice, presenting a clear challenge to the new administration’s commitment to transparency and accountability.