Is It True Ghanaian Politicians Are Afraid Of Right To Information Law?

A perception about Ghanaian politicians has been creeping in for the past 10 years. It would appear that the bolts are now being shot home to clarify and solidify that view as truth. Oh what a shame that would be?

According to media reports, the Speaker of Parliament, Rt. Hon. Joe Adjaho, the out-going Minister of Information, Mr. Mahama Ayariga and some members of the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs recently made comments, allegedly, to the effect that the “majority of Ghanaians are not interested in having a law on the Right to Information”.

The occasion was said to be the visit to Parliament House of Ms. Pansy Tlakula, the African Union Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, who was accompanied there by members of the Right to Information Coalition.

This view of the Speaker and the CLPA Committee that “the people don’t want the RTI law” was disclosed by Ms. Tlakula and the RTI Coalition at an interactive session between Ms. Tlakula, a representative of the Peoples National Convention, some civil society organisations and the media last Wednesday.

Speaking further, Ms. Tlakula was explicit that “Freedom of Information law is for everyone – politicians, lawyers, doctors, industrialists, to mention but a few – and not for journalists alone”, adding however that she (AU) and the RTI Coalition “got a commitment from the Speaker and members of the CLPA Committee that RTI bill will be passed before the expiration of the current term of Parliament in 2016”.

To the best of the knowledge of The Chronicle, it is getting on to 11 eleven years since the RTI bill was sent to Parliament. Why has it remained unacted through the reigns of three Presidents – John Kufour (who got it drafted), late John Atta Mills and John Mahama? That is where the suggestion of fear comes in.

In our editorial last Wednesday, entitled “Right to Deny Access to Information Bill”, we did a comparative analysis, based on provisions in RTI Acts already in operation in Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Liberia supplied by the RTI Coalition, on how long it takes government agencies to supply the information requested.

In Nigeria the deadline for delivery of information asked for is WITHIN SEVEN DAYS, after receipt of the request; In Sierra Leone WITHIN 15 WORKING DAYS, while in Liberia it is WITHIN 30 CALENDAR DAYS.

And what is the timeline in our own draft RTI bill that has gathered dust on the shelves of Parliament for more than 10 years – 35 WORKING DAYS! Still you may not get the information because the bill gives the Sector Minister discretion to extend the timeline.

In that editorial, we drew the attention of our politicians to the implication of that timeline in comparison to our neighbours; and we repeat today, in view of the alleged comment of high officials of Parliament:

“The Chronicle hopes that Ghanaian politicians fully understand the implication of the two facts above – that they are the most corrupt or have a greater tendency towards corruption along the West Coast?

That is inconceivable, or is it?
Politicians, the ball is in your court!