RTI Bill: Parliament pushes for creation of Information Commissioner

The Legal and Constitutional Committee of Parliament is rejecting a provision in the Right to Information Bill that allows the Minister of Justice to regulate access to information.

The MPs want a new position of an Information Commissioner created to bear the responsibility of supervising requests for information defined in the law as a right.

Parliament has opened fresh discussions on the Right to Information Bill, one of the most protracted pieces of draft legislations in Ghana’s Parliament.

The Bill has been around since 2002 but despite three presidents, it is yet to be passed into law.

The committee has identified over a 1,000 amendments in the 50-page document, Joy News parliamentary correspondent Elton John Brobbey reported from Tuesday’s sitting.

Amongst the contentious provision is Article 53 (1) which places on the Minister for Justice, the responsibility of ensuring the effective implementation of the RTI law when passed.

The Minister also has an obligation to conduct public education programmes and provide information for the implementation of the law.

But some MPs are kicking against this provision. They argue that conflict of interest will be inevitable if the Minister for Justice and Attorney General is tasked to implement the law. This is because, the minister is a member of the executive and is more likely to be biased and uncooperative.

The position taken by the MPs is supported by the Right to Information Coalition in Ghana, a group working to see the bill passed into law.

The coalition has also questioned the capacity of the Ministry of Justice and Attorney-General in implementing the law. The coalition has argued that the Ministry itself has been engulfed in scandals such as the judgment debts.

“In fact if the Minister is left to exercise this responsibility, the RTI law will be dead on arrival,” a statement put out by the coalition said.

The parliamentary select committee’s plan to have the Information Commissioner stationed within the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) has been rejected.

CHRAJ says it does not have the capacity to take on the additional responsibility. The MPs are now considering the establishment of the sole commissioner as an independent body to supervise the implementation of the law.

Elton John Brobbey expressed concerns of some MPs that saddled with over 1,000 pieces of amendments that will each have to be debated, it may take years before the 13-year old bill is passed into law.


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