Wednesday, December 8, 2021

How it took Ghana 22 years to pass a ‘Right to Information’ law

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Ibrahim Alhassan
Ibrahim Alhassan is a Ghanaian journalist who focuses on political reporting in Africa.
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Lawmakers in Ghana finally passed the ‘Right to Information’ (RTI) Bill this week after a number of failed attempts in the past.

The legislation which was passed on Tuesday March 26 will be critical to transparency and accountability in governance in Ghana.

It is also hoped that the new legislation helps in the fight against corruption.

But the passage of the law took 22 years with the first bill drafted in 1999 under the initiative of local civil society group, the Institute of Economic Affairs, (IEA).

Ghana’s government in 2002 drafted the first RTI bill which subsequently made it’s way to the house of the legislature in 2010.

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The legislation provides true meaning to the constitutional right to information held by public and some private institutions.

That is subject to exemptions that are necessary and consistent with the protection of public interest in a democratic society.

Significant victory for citizens  

Speaking after the passage of the bill Second Deputy Speaker of Ghana’s parliament Alban Kingsford Sumana Bagbin said Ghanaians can celebrate what he argues is a milestone in the democratic dispensation of the country.

“It’s a right of the good people of Ghana to have access to all the information that’s generated by people who are given power in trust for and on behalf of the good people of Ghana or a body or group of persons,” Bagbin said.

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He says “That’s why it’s not only dealing with public but in some respect affects the private sector and I think that Ghana will now celebrate that this bill has been passed.”

The deputy speaker who was part of the team that worked on the first draft
touted the potency of the passed legislation.

“Honourable members the RTI has gone through the third reading and is hereby duly passed. This law is one of the best ever passed in any part of the world,” he said.

There were some proposed amendments from civil society organizations such as the RTI Coalition to be incorporated into the bill at the last hour before passage.

The Coalition argues certain clauses which it believed were inimical to the successful implementation of the bill ought to be changed.

There was however an earlier amendment made to change the implementing body from Ministry of Justice and Attorney General to that of Information, a  move leader of the opposition lawmakers, Haruna Iddrisu argues will be inimical to successful implementation of the law.

Reactions to the passage of the law

The RTI Coalition has expressed it’s disappointment in the failure of Parliament to fuse their proposals into the bill.

But the chairman for committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Ben Abdallah Banda argues that the new law is not deficient in anyway as a result.

Ghana’s parliament however is unable to disclose the actual cost for the implementation of the RTI law.

“Section 100 of the public financial management act requires that every Bill that is brought to Parliament must be accompanied by a fiscal impact statement. Unfortunately, that was not done with respect to the Right to Information Bill,” Banda told Africa Feeds.

Ghana’s Information Minister Kojo Oppong Nkrumah has however hailed the new legislation.

He says government will make available the needed resources for the successful implementation of the law.

The country’s President is now expected to accent to the law before it can be operational.

Implementation of the law however can only begin in 2020 due to lack of financing.

Ghana has now joined 22 other African countries in passing an access to information law.




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