MoHFW Says Not Aware Where COVID Vaccine Panel’s Records Are
In response to an RTI application, the health ministry has said that it does not know where NEGVAC’s records are.
In response to an RTI application by Venkatesh Nayak of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, the Union Health Ministry has said that it does not know where the records pertaining to the agenda of National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC) are kept, PTI reported.
Member (Health) of Niti Aayog V K Paul was made the chairman of NEGVAC on 7 August 2020 to look over and develop a strategy for the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.
No Leads on Information
Nayak had sought NEGVAC’s records that contain their conference dates, a detailed agenda which was circulated in their meetings, presentations, and the material it shared with Ministry of External Affairs. He had also approached the health ministry to gather information on the amount of sitting fees and every other allowance payable to the chairperson as well as every other member of the expert group, and the amount of sitting fees and allowance actually paid to them.
The Central Public Information Officer could not provide the data, citing that the information being sought does not come under the definition of “information” in the Right to Information (RTI). The CPIO also added that details about the chairperson’s and other members’ sitting fees and other allowances is not with the ministry dealing with inoculation.
Following this, Nayak filed another appeal to a higher official in the ministry to challenge the CPIO’s order but was told the CPIO did not have the concerned information, and also did not know where the information can be.
Nayak’s application was then transferred to the Indian Council of Medical Research and the MEA, who did not provide the information either. On the question of material NEGVAC had shared with the External Affairs Ministry, the MEA brought up national security concerns as a reason for not sharing their records.
On the lack of transparency and CPIO not knowing where NEGVAC’s records are, Nayak said, "How can people's meaningful participation be ensured if the MoHFW does not place in the public domain details of NEGVAC's working. There is a statutory requirement of proactive information disclosure under Sections 4(1)(c) and 4(1)(d) of the RTI Act about NEGVAC's working. MoHFW and other public authorities involved in the vaccination roll-out plan have a statutory duty to make all facts and figures public along with the underlying reasoning for their decisions and actions under these provisions.”
He also added that he would approach the Central Information Commission to further question the MEA and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) over the matter.
(With inputs from PTI)
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