The Executive Secretary of the Right to Information Commission says the Council of State erred in directing Togbe Afede’s XIV aide to Metro TV for its information request.
Yaw Sarpong Boateng noted that it was an absurdity of the law, the action by the Council of State.
In June this year, an aide to Togbe Afede XIV, Elikplim Kwabla Apertorgbor requested information on travel allowances paid to members of the Council of state from 2017 to 2019 from the Council.
The request was to verify a claim by Paul Adom Otchere that the Agbogbomefia of the Asogli State was paid travel allowances to attend meetings when he served as a member of the Council of State.
The Council in a response to the request on June 13 said “Please be informed that the information requested is readily available by another public institution, Metro TV, who requested for same on the 8th of June 2022 and have since put it into the public domain.”
“Per provisions of Section 21, of the Right to Information Act 2019, Act 989, you are directed to contact Metro TV for the said information.”
But Mr Sarpong Boateng disagrees.
He contended that in reference to Section 21, the Council could have only directed the applicant to an official publication and not Metro TV.
“I think that there must have been some misapprehension on the part of the Council of State who was of the view that once we have published it to Metro TV then we can direct you to Metro TV but that would lead to an absurdity if we want to apply the law in that regard.”
“What the law seeks to do is to actually help in making sure people get information. So if the information is already in an official publication, what is an official publication? Have you already put it on a website?
“If you have you already put it in a report where you can direct me to go to, then you can be coming under section 21.
“But in this case, I think that what was an official publication was misrepresented to mean Metro TV,” he explained to Emefa Apawu on JoyNews’ The Probe, Sunday.
He said for an individual applicant like Metro TV, the RTI law does not permit the Council to refer an applicant to another individual applicant.
Mr Sarpong Boateng urged public institutions “to appreciate what the law says not to interpret it to an absurdity.”
Meanwhile, the Commission says it will soon commence prosecution of persons who commit various offences that impede access to Information.
In an interview on The Probe on JoyNews, the Executive Secretary of the Commission, Yaw Sarpong Boateng, said the Attorney General’s Department has already trained some staff of the Commission to undertake prosecution.
He was hopeful the process would soon be sealed for the trained persons to commence work.
“We already had access to information as a right under the 1992 Constitution; what we did not have was the processes for activating that right – that is what this law has come to make clear so that if I go into a public institution, you cannot ask me by what means am I coming for that information.
“We engaged with the Attorney General’s Department [and] he was magnanimous enough to give us that prosecutorial fiat for us to prosecute our own offences because, already, the Attorney General is overwhelmed with cases.
“It has trained many of our staff to become prosecutors and we hope that very soon the process would be sealed and we can initiate prosecution from the Right to Information Commission. The training ended in August; so now, we have the men to actually initiate the process of prosecution,” he noted.
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