14 February 2019

Ghana: Parliament Halts Passage of RTI Bill

PARLIAMENT has put on ice the passage of the long awaited Right to Information (RTI) Bill until further notice.

This is because the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs has received new proposed amendments to the Bill.

Should it be passed finally, its implementation will take effect at the beginning of the next financial year.

Chairman of the Committee, Ben Abdallah Banda, MP, Offinso South, on the floor of the House yesterday told members that the committee was considering the proposed amendments and would communicate same to the plenary accordingly.

"Mr Speaker, certain proposed amendments have been presented to the Committee so we are still meeting stakeholders. If the need arises (for those amendments to be considered) there will be a possibility of a second reading," he said.

Mr Abdallah made this disclosure when he was asked if all was cleared for the passage of the Bill after the House had inserted a commencement provision to determine when the bill, if passed, would take effect.

The House, two days into this meeting, had finished work on the bill but its passage had been stalled because it was waiting on the executive to indicate when it would be ready to implement the law.

Speaker Aaron Mike Oquaye on Thursday January 31 gave the Attorney General up to Tuesday, February 5 to indicate to the House when government would be ready to implement the RTI.

It followed a proposed amendment to the head note by Suhum member, Frederick Opare-Ansah, that the bill, if passed, should take effect 12 months after the President had assented to it.

Considering that clause yesterday, the House came to a conclusion that: "This Act shall come into force at the beginning of the next financial year."

Civil Society Organisations and the media during the last meeting upped their advocacy for the bill to be passed forming a coalition to press home their demand.

One of the advocacy groups, the Media Coalition on RTI, is not enthused at the turn of events.

Steering Committee member of the coalition, Clement Akoloh, in an interview with the Ghanaian Times said they had been taken aback by possibility of a second reading.

"We have been calling for the passage of the RTI for a long time. Now that the consideration is done for the bill to be passed we are been told that there are fresh proposed amendments," Clement Akoloh said.

In his view, the argument that government was not ready to implement the law was untenable

"If financing of the implementation was a hindrance to the implementation, government should have made that provision in the 2019 budget. Even if it didn't, there is a window of opportunity to do so in the supplementary budget.

"So to us as a Coalition, it seems government is not committed to the passage of the RTI but we are closely watching and will continue with our push for a law on the Right to Information in line with Constitutional provisions," he said.


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