It is arguably one of, if not the oldest bill that has ever entered the Parliament of Ghana.
And as important as it is to the fight against corruption in the country, politicians have deliberately decided to leave the Right to Information (RTI) Bill in the cold even as they keep assuring Ghanaians that they are committed to fighting corruption.
Ghanaians have heard time and again from Political Parties that passing the Right to Information bill was a priority when they ascended the throne of government but unfortunately, those who have been fortunate to ascend the throne have disappointed.
Some have argued that there is some fear that when the bill is passed, it could haunt the same people who passed it, thus, the lack of urgency on the part of government and Parliament in particular to pass the bill.
Interestingly, bills that do not entirely inure to the benefit of the citizenry are passed under Certificate of Urgency to favour multinationals, while one that seeks to bring transparency and development to the country’s democracy has been left to gather dust.
It is safe to conclude at this point that accountability and fear of transparency is the reason for the lack of enthusiasm on the part of successive governments to pass the RTI bill which has been in and out of Parliament for close to two decades.
During his tenure in Office, President John Dramania Mahama indicated on countless occasions his readiness to assent the bill and make it enforceable the very day it is brought before him. But much as the former President had wished to assent it, it did not appear before him before he handed over power.
The Current President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has also indicated his commitment to fighting corruption by establishing the office of the Special Prosecutor by the end of the year. So what will be the fate of the RTI bill under this government?
The President and the Vice President as well as other government officials have expressed their desire to see the speedy passage of the Bill. His Excellency, the Vice President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia speaking about the RTI bill and the new government’s resolve to fight corruption at a Good Corporate Governance Initiative event in Accra on Tuesday, January 31st, 2017, stated as follows: “we are going to have to push parliament to make the necessary amendments and if I had my way, it should be passed within these first 100 days of this government.”
Additionally, on May 3rd 2017, the Minister for Information speaking at a public lecture organized by the GJA to mark the International Press Freedom Day categorically stated ‘As per the calendar that we have sent to Parliament, it is in there that in the May to July 2017 Session of Parliament, the RTI Bill will be before them for debate and passage. It’s non-negotiable.”
However, according to the RTI Coalition, “despite these resounding promises and assurances, the 7thParliament on May 30th 2017, resumed its second sitting for the year 2017, but to the chagrin of Ghanaians, the RTI Bill was conspicuously missing on the agenda. Although several other Bills were listed and the agenda indicates that other Bills would also be considered; one would have thought that the one and only Bill that has generated a lot of public comments and criticisms would have been the no 1 item on the agenda, at least to encourage the public that this government does not intend to sleep on its promises.”
of the RTI
Though the importance of the Bill cannot be overemphasised, the implications for not passing a law for citizens’ right to information are indications that successive governments are afraid of transparency and accountability in their affairs.
The RTI bill which was drafted over 10 years ago and designed in accordance with Article (1) (f) of the1992 Constitution of Ghana gives the Ghanaian public the right to access official information which is held by a government agency.
Ghanaians need the law to enable them expose many acts of corruption, fraud, illegality and immorality in public affairs that has bedeviled the country over the years and to ensure that there is openness in public affairs at all time.
The RTI Law will provide a strong incentive against corruption. It will scare off corrupt officials. It may not change those who have chosen to be corrupt, but it will help to expose them and deter others.
RTI law, according to anti- graft campaigners would at least provide the citizenry an instrument to make the appropriate demands to know what exists and what happens on issues that affects their lives and also promote democratic interests and rights.
Ghana must follow suit
It is important to note that access to information forms the oxygen of democracy and Ghana must follow the examples of the 11 African countries including Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Guinea and Zimbabwe that have all passed the freedom of information laws. Up to you Mr. president, your legacy depends on this. It will strengthen your anti-corruption fight.