Ghana: Passage of RTI Bill and Blasé Attitude of the MPs

Newspaper, press, media.
15 November 2018

Describe it as the oldest bill in the fourth republic and you will not be wrong. The Right to Information (RTI) Bill has been in and out of parliament than any bill yet its fate is still unknown.

If it were a human being, at age 20, it would have transitioned from childhood into adulthood and could have been eligible to vote in the 2016 election.

But sadly, parliament could rise this year too, with no hope of the transition into a law, considering the lackadaisical attitude of our legislators.

The RTI, among other things, seeks to operationalise Article 21 (1) (f) of the 1992 constitution, which states that "all persons have the right to information subject to such qualifications and laws as are necessary in a democratic society."

Drafted in 1998, the RTI was first laid in Parliament in 2010, and after Parliament elapsed, it was brought back in 2015 where consideration started but could not be completed.

It was again laid in Parliament in the last meeting of this Parliament, but work on it has slowed down since the House returned for this meeting; the last of this session.

It was a sad spectacle when the house was last Wednesday forced into early adjournment because it did not have a quorum to continue with activities lined up for the day, which included the bill.

Coincidentally, before this, the House had substantial numbers during the questioning and statement sessions, which formed part of the 'private business' segment.

This is the umpteenth time parliamentarians have been at this game ostensibly to sabotage the bill. Day in, day out, parliamentarians continue to surprise the populace with one excuse or the other as to why the bill cannot be passed.

If it were a re-sit of an examination, should parliament not have passed by now, after several referrals? We are tempted to believe that there is a deliberate attempt to deny Ghanaians information.

Otherwise why would the call for the passage of the bill be a topic for discussion even at this time?

A leading member and advocate for the passage of the bill, Akoto Ampaw, has not minced words to described the attitude of Parliament dragging its feet with the passage of the bill into law as posing a great danger.

"An equally major danger is that, this Parliament, like the previous Parliament will dance about this matter and the term of Parliament will end and then when a new government and Parliament is elected, we will start all over again," he observed in a interview recently.

Like him and many Ghanaians, we believe that there is the propensity of the legislative to rub down the bill to the disadvantage of the public in whose interest the law must be passed.

The Ghanaian Times is disappointed by the posture of the legislative and would not stop the advocacy until the desired outcome is achieved and we urge the Media Coalition on Right to Information (RTI) and civil society to rest not.

We, therefore call on the Speaker of Parliament, Professor Mike Ocquaye to honour his assurance that the bill would be passed before the end of this year.

We need a change of attitude towards the bill; an attitude as honourable as the title our legislators love so much.

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