The passage of the Right to Information Bill (RTI) will help exonerate especially Members of Parliament (MPs) and Ministers of State on allegations of corruption, the Coalition for RTI, a Non-Governmental Organisation, said on Thursday.
The Coalition advised all MPs to study the bill well and speed up processes for its passage in their own interest and the supreme interest of the nation.
Speaking at a meeting to update stakeholders on the RTI in Sunyani, Mr. Gabriel Gbiel Benarkuu, Brong-Ahafo Regional Coordinator of the Coalition, observed with concern that the bill had been in Parliament for 10 years but no major significant stride had been made for its passage.
The meeting, jointly organized by Brong-Ahafo Network of NGOs (BANGO), Commonwealth Human Rights International, an NGO and the Coalition, was attended by media practitioners, Assembly Members, representatives of political parties and civil society organizations.
Mr. Benarkuu expressed concern about the views collected during the public consultation fora on the bill at the regional level, which had been left behind and called on the committee to ensure the necessary amendments were made before finalizing the bill.
He observed with regret that since it was first drafted in 2002, the bill had been viewed with lack of enthusiasm in political circles, with the argument that Ghanaians were not ready for such a law and that the RTI would be too costly for a developing country like Ghana, among other reasons.
"What politicians fail to see is that an effective right to information provides an enhanced and enabling climate for the full realization of other fundamental human rights. The right to information is rightly connected to the right to shelter, water and basic infrastructure and the right to development as a whole", Mr. Benarkuu stated.
The RTI regional coordinator regretted the recent developments which revealed that the Parliamentary joint committee had been acting contrary to promises made to Ghanaians, both on public platform and in discussions with the coalition.
Mr. Benarkuu stressed the need to increase grassroots pressure at the constituency level to ensure that the final bill would be garnered from responses of the regional consultations.
He said the coalition would continue to campaign against any restrictive right to the passage of the information bill without the necessary amendments that would guarantee citizens the genuine right of access to information as provided for in the 1992 constitution.
Mr. Raphael Godlove Ahenu Junior, Regional secretary of the coalition, said the right to information was fundamental to the realization of economic and social rights as well as civil and political rights.
"The right to information lays the foundation upon which to build good governance, transparency, accountability, participation and check arbitrariness and corruption in public life", he stated.
Mr. Ahenu, who is Chief Executive Officer of Global Media Foundation, an NGO, stated that freedom of, or right to, information was an internationally recognized fundamental human right.
"It is also based on the democratic principle that in a democracy the sovereignty of a nation lies in the hands of the people in whose name and on whose behalf the government exercises its powers", he added. GNA