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Pass RTI Bill urgently as done for Special Prosecutor Bill – Coalition

The Right to Information (RTI) Coalition Ghana, is urging parliament to urgently pass the Right to Information Bill as it did with the passage of the Office of the Special Prosecutor Bill.

The coalition said it noticed with keen interest how the Special Prosecutor bill was passed with urgency in accordance with the wish and preference of the Executive arm of government, and expects that same is done to the RTI bill which has not been passed for nearly ten years after it was first introduced in parliament.

The coalition in a statement copied to citifmonline.com said, it was disappointed that the RTI bill was not placed before Parliament despite the commitment of the current government to expedite action on it.

“We share in the Finance Minister’s mention of the passage of the Office of Special Prosecutor Bill as an accomplishment in putting an anti-corruption arsenal together, but we are disappointed that the passage of the Right to Information Bill which would facilitate the provision of the necessary ammunition for the Office of Special Prosecutor has so far not been placed before Parliament,” it said.

“It is clear that Parliament prioritizes whatever business the Executive considers urgent and such business receives due attention and necessary action, as is appropriate,” it noted.

The Right to Information Coalition accused the Akufo-Addo government of not demonstrating seriousness in fulfilling its 2017 promise in the 2017 Budget to pass the RTI bill.

“It is worth noting that in the 2017 Budget Statement, the Finance Minister mentioned in paragraph 335 that “the Information Ministry will collaborate with all key stakeholders to agree on a programme of action for the passage of the Right to Information Bill into law.” The Minister further mentioned in paragraph 885 that “Mr. Speaker, this government is committed to passing the Right to Information Bill as part of our tools in fighting corruption. We will not pay lip service to fighting corruption.”

“Interestingly, eight (8) months down the line, the Finance Minister, in the 2018 Budget Statement, mentioned in paragraph 272 that “In line with the National Anti-Corruption Action Plan (NACAP), a Parliamentary Committee will be established to follow up on PAC recommendations, the Conduct for Public Officers’ Bill, the Manual on Standards and Ethics to complement the Code of Conduct for MPs and the Right to Information Bill”.

Obviously, that commitment made in the 2017 Budget Statement seems to have been watered down,” it said.

“The Coalition finds the context in which the RTI Bill is mentioned in the 2018 Budget Statement very revealing, considering that government was not able to fulfill the commitments made on the Bill in the 2017 Budget Statement, but refused to at least commit to achieve and build on it in the upcoming year Budget Statement as done for other commitments that were unfulfilled. Comparing the commitments on the RTI Bill in both Budget Statements and the fact that the Bill has not even moved from the Executive to Parliament almost at the end of the first year of government’s term in office amidst the numerous promises, one can confidently conclude that government’s commitments on the Bill has waned,” it added.

The coalition said it will hold President Akufo-Addo by his word of making sure the bill is passed before the end of the year.

“In conclusion, we reiterate our call on President Nana Akufo-Addo to ensure that a Right to Information Bill is placed before Parliament before the end of the year, 2017 to begin the process of passage “very soon” as repeatedly promised,” it said.

About RTI

The right to information is a fundamental human right guaranteed by the country’s 1992 Constitution, and recognized as a right under International Conventions on Human rights.

The bill as it has been drafted, is to give substance to Article 21 (1) (f) of the Constitution which states that “All persons shall have the right to information subject to such qualifications and laws as are necessary in a democratic society”.

The Right to Information Bill was first drafted in 1999 under the former president, Jerry John Rawlings. Various advocacy groups emerged to press for the immediate passing of the bill into law in 2002. The draft bill was reviewed in 2003, 2005 and 2007.

The National Democratic Congress (NDC) in its 2008 and 2012 election manifestos promised to ensure the bill is passed. In 2010, the bill was presented to Parliament for consideration.

In 2011, the government signed unto the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Initiative with a commitment to pass by the bill. In November 2013, the bill was formally laid before parliament.

Former Attorney General, Deputy Dominic Ayine in 2015, moved the bill for second reading in Parliament. In October 2016, the bill was withdrawn and a replaced with a new one which was immediately laid.

Following the dissolution of the Sixth Parliament of the Fourth Republic and the swearing-in of new Parliament in January 2017, the bill is no longer in parliament.

It must be reintroduced to the House by the new government before work commences on it again.

By: Jonas Nyabor/citifmonline.com/Ghana