General News of Thursday, 24 May 2018
Parliament’s Joint Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and Communications has presented its report on the Right to Information Bill to the house for deliberations.
The Bill was referred to the committee by the Speaker for consideration after it was first laid in the house by the Attorney General.
The Joint Committee in considering the bill conducted some public hearings to solicit input. The Bill which is expected to increase access to public information has been in and out of parliament for about 18 years without passage.
The Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, in a Citi News interview said the plenary would begin scrutiny of the Bill from next week.
“There is a commitment by the new administration to see it happen. It is one of the bills that has seen a lot of improvement so it should be easier for us to see it through when it comes up. You may see if for Wednesday, next week. That is what we are looking at.
The right to information is a fundamental human right guaranteed by the country’s 1992 Constitution and recognised as a right under International Conventions on Human rights.
The Bill as it has been drafted is to give substance to Article 21 (1) (f) of the Constitution which states that “All persons shall have the right to information subject to such qualifications and laws as are necessary for a democratic society.”
The back and forth
The Right to Information Bill was first drafted in 1999 under former president, Jerry John Rawlings.
Various advocacy groups emerged to press for the immediate passing of the bill into law in 2002 and reviewed in 2003, 2005 and 2007.
The National Democratic Congress (NDC) in 2008 and 2012 election manifestos promised to pass the Bill.
In 2010, it was presented to Parliament for consideration.
In 2011, the government signed unto the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Initiative with a commitment to pass the law. Then in November 2013, the Bill was formally laid before parliament.
Former Attorney General, Deputy Dominic Ayine in 2015, moved the Bill for second reading in Parliament.
In October 2016, the Bill was withdrawn and replaced with a new one which was immediately laid.
Following the dissolution of the Sixth Parliament of the Fourth Republic and the swearing-in of new Parliament in January 2017, the Bill had to be re-laid by the new government before work commences on it.