The Coalition on the Right to Information (RTI) Bill, has expressed doubt about the motivation of Parliament to subject the Bill, currently before it, to serious scrutiny towards effective law for implementation.
The Coalition has, therefore, called for mounting public pressure on both government and the legislature, to ensure that Ghanaians are handed over an information law holistic enough to meet their needs and aspirations.
“I can assure you that Parliament does not have the commitment or incentive to do a thorough review of the Bill, unless public pressure is put on it,” said Mr Akoto Ampaw, Steering committee member of the Coalition.
Mr Ampaw made these remarks at a capacity-building workshop for Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), charged with the responsibility of managing records/information in public offices.
The workshop was organised on the theme: “Records Management; A Lifeline to Effective Access to Information,” by the Commonwealth Human Right Initiative (CHRI), to fashion out ways of promoting access to information through effective records management.
Mr Ampaw cited systemic challenges of chaotic records keeping, lack of clarity in some clauses, too many repetitive exemptions, unlimited fee charges, and issues of timelines, as being dangerous processes involved in public access to information.
He pointed out that, the Bill in its current form, did not measure up to international standards, and posed a serious obstacle in the ways of the citizenry to access information.
Mr Ampaw also raised the issues of maximum disclosure and blanket statements “not relating to anything,” and said: “if the Bill is passed without any fundamental amendments, it will be tantamount to giving Ghanaians a raw deal.”
The RTI Bill has been going back and forth among the executive, civil society organisations, and agencies, for about 13 years now, but still it is not a good one, said Professor Kwame Karikari, Co-Chairman of the Coalition.
Prof Karikari said it was time Parliament scrutinised the Bill to connect to the daily lives of the people and their right to development.
He called on the Public Archives and Administration Department of Ghana, to begin training its staff nationwide, and formulate proper record-keeping policies, since these are key ingredients to the successful implementation of an effective RTI Law.
Professor Karikari allayed the fears of politicians, saying, ‘you have nothing to fear, since the public only need the information to be able to contribute effectively to national development.’
Ms Mina Mensah, Head of CHRI; Secretariat for the Coalition, explained that citizens required information on health, tax, agriculture, human rights, voting, and many more to empower them.
She said access to information was not meant to bastardize government, but to inform the populace about what was really happening in government circles.