This month has seen some headlines about the Right to Information Act 2019, Act 989 in Ghana. Two weeks ago, the Information Minister was in Parliament bemoaning how only 224 RTI requests have been made since the law became operational in 2020.

On March 17, came great but expected news as the High Court presided over Justice Gifty Agyei Addo dismissed the case by the Minerals Commission challenging the RTI Commission’s ruling to compel it to give the information requested by the Fourth Estate at ¢1.80 per page of photocopy or ¢1.90 for PDF copies, instead of the absurd and ridiculous $1000 or more than ¢7000 it had demanded to release the information.

Then this week the Ministry of Health without shame, wrote to Joynews declaring it was completely clueless when it comes to information about the promised 111 hospitals President Akufo Addo and his Government have made a song and dance about even before a single one could be built.

The Ministry acted in grave bad faith because it is the best and only place anybody ought to seek such information by law. If it indeed does not have the information, it is most embarrassing and such incompetence not know or pretend not to know where to refer the applicant to or transfer the request to be processed.

Section 19 of Act 989 requires a public institution that does not have custody or control of information sought, to make the necessary enquiries to establish which related institution has the information, and to, within two days of receiving the application, refer the applicant to the relevant institution or transfer the request to such institution and notify the applicant of the transfer.

These acts certainly discourage the people who want to use the RTI to procure accurate information. Where it is found that such act is deliberate and intended to frustrate, mislead and ultimately deny a person’s right to information, it is gross misconduct and punishable by a fine of ¢3000 – ¢6000 and/or one to three years in jail.

Let the government trigger criminal prosecution to discourage this conduct if it is sincere about desiring increased use of the law for information.

All the Fourth Estate publications sought from the Minerals Commission was a list of companies it has issued mining licenses and those it has revoked their licenses. They also demanded accountability for monies raised from charges on importation of excavators.

Why will a government serious about fighting galamsey look on, not order whomever is appointed to the helm at this Commission to release such information but encourage it to waste public funds to go to court to fight media seeking accurate information to help the galamsey fight? This sounds like a case of causing financial loss and the head of this Commission still has his job just like whoever wrote that letter to JoyNews.

Ashaiman MP Ernest Norgbey had to pay lawyers to go to court to fight the Electoral Commission (EC) over his request for basic contract documents covering procurements for the 2020 elections. The Media Foundation for West Africa also had to go to court because the National Communications Authority (NCA) demanded ¢2000 to supply information about the radio stations it shut down at the start of this NPP regime. What joke is this?

There has been the lame excuse that disclosing the cost of the president’s private jet trips abroad will compromise national security. What is national security about the cost of those travels?

Government, Information Minister, you should be speaking up and cautioning these institutions against such appalling and insulting conduct that discourages people desiring to make RTI requests to which they are entitled as their constitutional and fundamental human rights.

Whatever the situation, I encourage all to make your RTI applications knowing we are blessed with an RTI Commission that is keeping faith and fidelity to the law and the people by aggressively and fearlessly enforcing the RTI law. The Executive Secretary, Yaw Sarpong Boateng and the Governing Board under the refreshing chairmanship of retired Justice K.A. Ofori-Atta deserve our every commendation and support to do more.

This is My Take.

March 26, 2022

Samson Lardy Anyenini