Parliament has passed the Right to Information (RTI) Bill into law.
The law which will be implemented in January 2020 now awaits Presidential assent.
The RTI law will provide for the operationalisation of the constitutional right to information held by the public and some private institutions, subject to exemptions that are necessary and consistent with the protection of public interest in a democratic society.
It also seeks to foster a culture of transparency and accountability in public affairs and to provide for related matters.
The RTI Bill was first drafted in 1999, reviewed in 2003, 2005 and 2007 but was only presented to Parliament in 2010. But it could not be passed due to the many recommendations of amendment. It was brought back to the Sixth Parliament but could not be passed till the expiration of that Parliament on January 6, 2016.
Momentum to get the bill passed swelled in 2017 following the formation of the Media Coalition on RTI. The Coalition with support from other civil society organisations in the past 11 months, piled pressure on Parliament to get the Bill passed.
Some members of Parliament had feared that government would lose exclusivity to certain vital information when the Bill is passed.
Adansi Asokwa MP, K.T. Hammond, acknowledged that although the law will be useful to journalists, it may not necessarily augur well for governance in the country.
“You need peace of mind to run a government. You need to concentrate and if you have a bill and before the ink dries on it, somebody is asking you to ‘bring this document’…to the extent that we are talking about communication between the president, the vice president and cabinet, potentially, there will be no secret in government,” he said.
But the Speaker of Parliament and government kept to their assurances of getting the Bill passed, at least during this tenure of President Akufo-Addo.
The Bill almost suffered another set back when Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, called for further amendments to be made to it, Joy News’ Joseph Opoku Gakpo, reported from Parliament.
The MP had wanted to invoke the Parliament’s Standing Order (Order 130) which allows for further amendments to be made to any Bill before it is read a third time.
The third reading is a stage of the legislative process in which a Bill is read with all amendments and given approval by Parliament.
The Majority Leader, Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu disagreed. He did not want any further delays to the passage of the Bill.
After further deliberations, Mr Iddrisu agreed with the Majority Leader and dropped his request, making way for the Bill to be read and passed.
The 2nd Deputy Speaker, Alban Bagbin, who oversaw proceedings today, expressed joy that “at long last, the RTI Bill has now survived in this House.”