25 June 2012

Ghana: CHRAJ to Administer/Oversee Right to Info Law

If the Joint Committee on Communications and Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs of Parliament has its own way, the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) is the right body to oversee the administration of a Right to Information (RTI) regime. But the decision to accept the offer rests with CHRAJ.

The committee is to consult CHRAJ to know whether it is willing and capable of taking charge of the job of administrating the RTI law. This move is a result of an amendment to Clause 53 (1) of the RTI Bill which stipulates that the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice should be responsible for implementing the Act when the Bill becomes an Act.

According to Mr Emmanuel Kwasi Bandua, Chair of the Joint Committee, the passage of the RTI Bill would have to delay because the Committee wants CHRAJ, instead of the A-G, to implement the Act. Members of the committee have, therefore, decided to meet top officials of CHRAJ to put the proposal before them. "We need sufficient time to meet CHRAJ so the passage of the Bill does not depend on Parliament alone," Mr Bandua stated.

He was speaking at a debate organised by Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG) held in Accra. The debate was on the topic: "The Right to Know and the Power to Regulate the Airwaves - The Way Forward."

Clause 53 (1) of the RTI Bill states that "The Minister responsible for Justice has ministerial responsibility for the effective implementation of this Act, and may for that purpose issue written guidelines to agencies and ministries," and sub-section (3) states that "The Minister may (a) conduct public education programmes and provide information for the implementation of this Act, (b) initiate research to be conducted into matters affecting the purposes of this Act, and (c) receive representations from the public in respect of the operation of this Act."

But in a sharp rebuttal, Mr Akoto Ampaw, a legal practitioner and member of the Coalition on RTI, disagreed with the proposal of the Joint Committee, saying that CHRAJ is over-burdened with its three main functions of being an ombudsman, anti-corruption and human rights agencies. Mr Ampaw suggested that an independent commission should be established to implement the Act in order to avoid the politicisation of the process of seeking information from politicians and public officers.

The Majority Leader, Cletus Avoka, gave the assurance that the Bill would be passed before Parliament goes on recess for the general elections in December. Mr Avoka tasked the Joint Committee to submit its report to the House by the first week of July.

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