Ghana’s Right to Information Bill (RTI) drafted in 1999 by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) and passed by Parliament on March 26, 2019, is set to be implemented in January 2020. But the bill still needs the President’s assent to be adopted as law. The RTI bill was put before Parliament on February 5, 2010, after reviews in 2003, 2005 and 2007—all of which ended in refusals and disappointing delays. Now that the Parliament hurdle is passed, the bill should be put before the President and assent at once. Unfortunately for Ghanaians, this is not the scenario playing out at the moment; The President has yet to sign the bill. But if adopted as law, it will allow access to information regarding policies and activities of government agencies and officials.
About a month after the Right to Information Bill was passed by Parliament, it has not been forwarded to the Office of the President for assent. – GhanaWeb
What the RTI Bill Entails
The Right to Information Bill is designed to operationalize the right of citizens to access information as provided in Ghana’s 1992 constitution in Article 21(1)(f) which recognized:
All persons shall have the right to information subject to such qualifications and laws as are necessary in a democratic society.
The bill seeks to spell out specific procedures for guaranteeing access to information for every Ghanaian, especially how decisions are taken on their behalf. But efforts to pass the bill has been stifled for close to two decades because some politicians find the bill threatening. Perhaps because the RTI bill will also entitle citizens to request and get information on all political dealings. Of course, shady and corrupt politicians will find such transparency troubling and will always frustrate the implementation of the bill.
Role of the Ghanaian Media
The Ghanian media has shown tremendous support for the passage of this bill.
In 2017, efforts to get the bill passed swelled following the formation of the Media Coalition on RTI bill which has persistently pressurized Parliament.
Following the passage of the bill on March 26, 2019, the coalition expressed disappointment on the further delay of its implementation until January 2020 by the Parliament. The Majority Leader of Parliament, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, once said the delay in passing the bill was because the 2019 fiscal budget did not make any provisions for the RTI bill. But his excuse was just another empty claim intentionally geared to delay the progress of the bill.
Why Ghanaians must Fight for the Actualization of the RTI Bill
Freedom of information is one of the most universally adopted fundamental rights; Almost every good democracy has it well enshrined as law and implemented. As such, implementing the RTI bill will mark a significant step towards promoting and upholding the Ghanaian democracy.
The bill will equally ensure accountability and transparency in governance, which are precursors to managing corruption. More so, since citizens will have open access to petition for information on the official activities of their elected representatives, citizens will take their active role in determining the outcome of almost every government policy. It is one of the best ways to encourage public participation in governance.
For these reasons, Ghanaians cannot simply look the other way and allow the President and Parliament to slip this bill under the rug, again. Every Ghanaian must fight to have this bill accented by the President at the soonest time possible.
Bio: Haleed is a Writing Fellow at African Liberty. He is currently offering his mandatory National Service in Camfed Ghana. He can be reached on Twitter via @Haleed_Nemo