Pass the RTI bill now -Civil Society Platform

The Civil Society (CS) Platform on IMF Bailout is making a case for parliament to pass the Right To Information (RTI) bill to law before Parliament rises in December. 

The group fears that if the bill is not passed by the end of the year, it would be pushed back to 2016 even after the elections. The platform is therefore urging stakeholders (media, civil society, academia, other non-state actors and the citizenry at large) to join the campaign.

The Right to Information bill is to among others provide for access to official information held by public institutions as well as private entities which perform public functions with public funds. It also ensures the qualifications and conditions under which access to information held by public institutions should be obtained.

The bill was drafted in 1999 and reviewed in 2003, 2005 and 2007 but was not presented to Parliament.  The first practical attempt at enacting the law was made when the bill was presented to Parliament on 5th February 2010. The Attorney-General on 25th June, 2015 moved the bill for the second reading awaiting passage in Parliament.

The group in a statement says it recognizes that a lot of work has gone on over the years on the part of the Attorney-General’s Department, Parliament’s Select Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and the Coalition on the Right to Information among others to have the bill back in Parliament for its second reading last June.

It is thus calling on parliamentarians to put the interest of the nation first and not betray the trust of their constituents by showing a lot more commitment to pass the bill to law. This, the group believes would enable the country not just have a law, but a legislation that opens up the door for people to have real access to timely information.

“Citizens’ right to information is a fundamental human right guaranteed by Ghana’s 1992 constitution and recognized as a right under international conventions on human rights. The purpose of the Right to Information Bill is to give substance to Article 21 (1) (f) of the constitution that “All persons shall have the right to information subject to such qualifications and laws as are necessary in a democratic society” the statement noted. 

The group sees an effective law on the Right to Information as a major tool that would incentivize citizens’ quest for accountability and transparency from our governance structures and institutions at the national level through to the district level. It therefore believes such a law would provide a hierarchy of administrative avenues to ensure citizens get access to information and thus make the resort to the law court a last option.

“Good democratic governance requires active participation by all in the governance of the country and underscores the importance of access to relevant information in a participatory democracy. Because it is only when citizens are well informed that they can contribute meaningfully to the governance process. Yet, most public officials and state institutions determine when and at what time to provide information with some declining such requests altogether even though in most cases information required may not have security implications for the state and are readily accessible information in other jurisdictions” the statement .

The RTI bill will also lead to the establishment of the Right to Information Commission to ensure independence of the review process. It will also ensure appeal and review processes from the internal Information Review Officers to the High Court.