The RTI Coalition consisting of Ghana Anti- Corruption Coalition (GACC), Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII) and SEND-Ghana leading the Right to Information (RTI) Action Campaign, an advocacy for the passage of the RTI Bill into Law has identified some shortfalls in the Bill which is currently before parliament.
The RTI Bill which is expected to make credible information easily accessible by the media and every Ghanaian to contribute to anti-corruption in the country, has been in parliament for well over 17 years because successive governments have failed to implement it despite the numerous assurances.
Even though progress has been made resulting in laying of a report before Parliament on the Bill by the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs on May 23 and the subsequent second reading of the Bill on June 7, the campaigners have kicked against some portions of the Bill which they want taken off entirely or reviewed to ensure a credible Bill.
This came to light at a media engagement on Wednesday, June 13, in Ho, Volta Region to sensitise media persons on the RTI Bill 2018.
Mr. Kwesi Boateng Assumeng, Programme Officer, GACC said passing the Bill into law with clauses such as 12 and 13 which border on exempt existing with tax liability, tax returns and withholding information that is in process regarding opinion, report or recommendation, which are inconsistent with the Bill, implies that “the RTI Bill is defeated.”
According to him, there should be serious consideration for the principles of maximum disclosure and Proactive disclosure which provide for public institutions to make updated information readily available to the citizenry.
The Campaign also sought to have Parliament’s interpretation on the Office of the President in the exempt clause provided in clause 5.
Mr Assumeng said there are Ministry of Special Initiative, Ghana Aids Commission, MASLOC among others under the Office of the President and lumping them together without any proper definition would amount to “Denial Bill or Law.”
“The Office of the President should be interpreted. Are we only talking about the Presidency or it’s all encompassing; capturing or bothering on all the other myriad of agencies that fall directly under the Office of the Presidency? If we leave it as it is, it is very problematic and you have agencies that fall directly under the Office of the President exempting information to say that, the law says these are exempt clauses so we cannot make it available. We’re saying, that should be rightly defined under the current Bill.”
He however applauded the Committee for working on few of the proposals including the fee- based where applicants will not pay except for retrieval and peculiar services and reducing the number of days an applicant can gain access to information.
The Executive Secretary, GACC, Mrs Beauty Emefa Narteh underscored the importance of the RTI Bill to the media industry as well as to every individual in Ghana.
She therefore asked the participants to take the training as a learning process so as to undertake informed programmes and reports in throwing their weight behind the efforts in getting a credible Bill or Law for the overall good of the citizenry.
By: Ewoenam Kpodo/voltaonlinegh.com