Government Agencies Fail To Attend RTI Forum

Majority of government agencies invited to participate in the Coalition on the Right to Information experience sharing forum, on access to information failed to honour the invitation on Tuesday.

This follows series of follow up phone calls and letters to the departments and agencies reminding them of the forum, but there were no acknowledgement of receipt of the letters, said Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI).

CHRI had sent invitation letters dated March 31 requesting the Public Interest Committee of Parliament, Petroleum Commission, Ghana Police Service, Accra Metropolitan Assembly, and Ghana Highway Authority, among other agencies but they did not honour the invitation.

Ms Mina Mensah, CHRI Africa Regional Coordinator, however, said she was encouraged with the attendance of the Deputy Commissioner of Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), Human Resource, and the Public Relations Officer of the Minerals Commission.

She questioned the commitment of the Ministries, Departments and Agencies to Right to Information Bill when passed into law.

She said right to information is a constitutional obligation imposed on officers holding public information to release them for public consumption to enhance social and economic development.

Civil Society Organisations at the forum recounted their frustrations in attempt to get information from government agencies and departments due to cumbersome bureaucratic processes.

They said the bureaucratic processes within the agencies resulted in delay in the release of information or failure to release information.

Mr Alex Tetteh of Centre for Employment for Persons with Disabilities narrated how difficult it was to get information from the Judicial Service, Ghana Police Service and the Local Government Secretariat.

He said attempts to get information on whether a court complex at the Cocoa Affairs Court has accessibility features resulted in no response from the Judicial Service while efforts to know how many People With Disabilities applied for jobs in the local government for 2012/2013 recruitment proved futile.

Mr Isaac Abraham, Public Relations Officer of the Minerals Commission attributed the situation to poor filing system, improper record keeping and systematic failures.

“Failure to submit requested information to the Public Relations Department and delay by the official in question to minute the letter for action also accounted for the problem,” he said.

Mr Kobina Enyimayew, Deputy Commissioner of GRA, Human Resource also observed that the Public Service has a highly structured system, which requires every correspondence to be addressed to the Chief Executive Officer.

He said until those bottlenecks are addressed the challenges in access to information in some public offices are bound to remain.

He said the GRA is undergoing structural transformation and had developed a charter to address some of its communication needs and serve clients better.

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