The fee for making a request to the Penang state government for information under the Freedom of Information Act is RM100 if the information relates to earlier years.
A veteran journalist then wondered aloud to me: “I want to make a number of requests for information in the course of my work,” he said. “Does that mean if I make five requests under the FOI, I have to pay RM500?”
This is an excerpt from a Malaysiakini report:
Spokesperson for human rights NGO Suaram Ong Jing Cheng urged the state government to review the fee, which now stands at RM50 for information for the current year and RM100 for previous years.
Photocopy fee for the requested documents is RM1 per page.
“What if the copies we need run into the hundreds?” Ong asked at a press conference held at Komtar Level 3, where the state government offices are located.
“This may defer people, including poorer NGOs, from applying for the information they want,” he said.
“The fee is 10 times higher than the charges imposed by the Selangor government, which is RM12 for each application, and 20 sen (per page) for photocopy,” he noted.
Apparently, students can seek a discount while others can also ask for a reduced fee, which would be at the discretion of the department concerned.
Incidentally Jing Cheng has made two requests for information, which are of public interest. He wants:
– the George Town Festival 2014 financial report and
– a Penang Municipal Council report on the top 10 highest density housing areas on the island from 2008 to last year.
So far, he told me he has received the George Town Festival financial report. “But I received just two pages … a summary of the financial information; so not very helpful in learning about the detailed expenditure.”
He is now waiting for the top 10 highest density areas, which should prove interesting. The information under the FOI has to be supplied within 14 working days.
Unfortunately, the relatively high fees in Penang will deter many others among the public, especially those whose work involves researching regularly into issues of public interest, from seeking information under the FOI Enactment.
Sort of defeats the purpose of the FOI, doesn’t it?