Office of National Security conducts a roundtable on information/document leakage

Persistent leakage of classified information from Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) has become worrisome. Cognizant of the national security implications of the unauthorised access to, disclosure and publication of sensitive information, the National Security Coordinator (NS Coord), Mr Abdulai Caulker, on Thursday, 19th May 2022, summoned a stakeholders’ meeting to discuss realistic options in addressing the matter.

In his opening remarks, the NS Coord pointed out some of the national security implications of information spillage and underscored the need for a collective approach to finding realistic ways of solving the problem. He stated that whilst he recognised the right to access information as a democratic right, not all information is meant for public consumption as some information are classified and based on the need-to-know basis. The NS Coord said this is the standard practice everywhere in the world.

In particular, the NS Coord expressed disappointment about the sort of analysis recently done by a certain blogger on the disparities in salaries in the public sector alluding to personnel of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces as the least remunerated. The NS Coord expressed that such an analysis was troubleshooting and could be regarded as an indirect incitement of the military against the state. Thus, he called on heads of MDAs to consider it a collective responsibility to address the menace of unauthorised information disclosure which is currently plaguing Sierra Leone.

  • The objectives of the roundtable were as follows:
    • to establish the causes and effects of the unauthorised disclosure of information and the implications for national security
    • to assess the existing capacity gaps in information management within the MDAs
    • to develop key guidelines on the management of classified information and
    • to raise public awareness on the enormity of information leakage and the legal implications therein.
  • The expected outcomes of the engagement were:
    • general agreement on the need to tackle the menace of unauthorised disclosure of information
    • agreement on holding uniform training sessions for government employees across all MDAs supported by the Head of the Civil Service and HRMO
    • embarking on effective implementation of the protective security policy developed by the ONS.

Discussions were preamble by a presentation by the Director of Vetting and Protective Security (VaPS) at ONS, on “Protective Security Policy for Sierra Leone.”

Responding, attendees expressed thanks and appreciation to the ONS leadership for the timely engagement of MDAs as they were equally concerned about the problems of information leakage and mismanagement.

Speaker after speaker further highlighted and buttressed the challenges faced within their respective institutions especially in terms of enforcement of regulations against unlawful disclosure of classified information.

  • The following recommendations were proffered:
    • The ONS to consider engaging all MDAs across the country on information protection
    • ONS to re-send the Protective Security Manual to all MDAs
    • Consider the harmonisation of the clause on exemption in the legislation of the right to access information with other laws prohibiting unauthorised disclosure
    • Develop a policy paper on information security for the attention and consideration of the National Security Council (NSC)
    • MDAs to conduct self-risk assessments on the issues relating to the security of information
    • Develop a National Policy on the use of social media

 

For further Enquiries:
Deputy Director, Strategic Communications
Office of National Security
Tower Hill, Freetown
Contact: +23276493071
Email: awill@ons.gov.sl or
abdulkarim.will@yahoo.com

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