The Right to Information Coalition has said it is not enthused with President Akufo Addo’s mere verbal assurances to ensure the passage of the RTI bill.
The coalition said the government has failed to show commitment towards actually passing the bill into law.
The Bill has been in and out of Parliament over the last decade, but has not received the needed legislative attention over the period.
President Akufo-Addo in his 61st Independence Day Speech on Tuesday renewed his promise to see to the passage of the bill before the dissolution of the current Parliament.
But the Coalition says it expects more action from the President. The Regional Coordinator of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Mina Mensah, who is also Convener of the Right to Information Coalition, in an interview with Citi News said they expect the President to provide precise timelines for the passage of the bill, which seeks to empower the public to demand information from the government.
“I lost confidence in it a long time again. Unless I see action, the talk doesn’t do anything for me. Since January, the Vice President has talked about it. As for the Minister of Information, I don’t even want to comment on that, and then the AG tells us that it is in cabinet. It has been in cabinet since May 2017. There is no information on the RTI bill. Anything that the President wants passed, gets passed. When he wanted the office of the special prosecutor bill passed, it got passed and they did it with a lot of speed. For me, it’s just the same as it is in their manifesto, that we’ll pass the bill if the current legislator does not pass it. What are the timelines?,” she quizzed.
Meanwhile, the Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu, has proposed a new timeline for the passage of the much talked about Right to Information Bill.
According to him, Parliament would finish work on the bill by the second meeting of the next session of the house which translates to about July 2018.
Speaking at a training programme for journalists in Parliament in November 2017, Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu said the 7th Parliament of the 4th Republic will work hard to pass the Bill.
The right to information is a fundamental human right guaranteed by the country’s 1992 Constitution and recognized as a right under International Conventions on Human rights.
The bill as it has been drafted, is to give substance to Article 21 (1) (f) of the Constitution which states that “All persons shall have the right to information subject to such qualifications and laws as are necessary in a democratic society”.
The back and forth
The Right to Information Bill was first drafted in 1999 under the former president, Jerry John Rawlings. Various advocacy groups emerged to press for the immediate passing of the bill into law in 2002. The draft bill was reviewed in 2003, 2005 and 2007.
The National Democratic Congress (NDC) in its 2008 and 2012 election manifestos promised to ensure the bill is passed. In 2010, the bill was presented to Parliament for consideration.
In 2011, the government signed unto the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Initiative with a commitment to pass by the bill. In November 2013, the bill was formally laid before parliament.
Former Attorney General, Deputy Dominic Ayine in 2015, moved the bill for second reading in Parliament. In October 2016, the bill was withdrawn and a replaced with a new one which was immediately laid.
Following the dissolution of the Sixth Parliament of the Fourth Republic and the swearing-in of new Parliament in January 2017, the bill is no longer in parliament.
It must be reintroduced to the House by the new government before work commences on it again.