Civil Society Organisations have called on government to quickly work on the regulations that would govern the implementation of the Right to Information law.
This they believe will ensure smooth take-off in January 2020.
They have also called for a brief, but effective summary of the law not only in English but also in major Ghanaian languages to enhance the understanding of the citizenry.
The CSOs made the call at an engagement session organised by the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs to solicit views on how to ensure the smooth implementation of the law to enhance good democratic governance.
Among other objectives, the engagement with Civil Society Organisations on the implementation of the RTI Law seeks to examine the Institutional mechanisms for the implementation of the RTI law, discuss the challenges and prospects of the implementation of the RTI law, provide recommendations to support the establishment of RTI Commission and build a Coalition to support the implementation of the RTI law.
Speaking at the forum, Mr Akoto Ampaw, a legal practitioner, emphasised the need for an information storage and retrieval architecture, which he said was key to the implementation of the law.
He said information must be easily stored and be made accessible at any time to people who required them.
In this direction, he said, it was important that the state provided enough funding to the Public Records and Archives Administration Department to be in position to perform the duty creditably.
Mr Ampaw said it was necessary to get funding to begin preparatory work, saying that the programme of implementation must be done in stages instead of waiting for January 2020.
On the selection of members for the Information Commission, he advised that people who had the requisite expertise, and committed to rights, open and transparent be made to occupy the positions.
Dr Steve Manteaw said to ensure effective implementation of the RTI law, the regulations must be ready before the January 2020 start date to avoid past situations, where good laws were passed, but the regulations were unduly delayed.
There was also the need for awareness creation to enable the citizens to understand the law and to fully participate in its implementation to enhance transparency and curb corruption.
Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, the Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, said Parliament played its role in delivering the RTI law, but there was the need for effective and efficient implementation of the Law.
“The first hurdle was surmounted, but what remains is more herculean. In my opinion, passing the law is easier, the harder part is the actualization,” he said, adding that citizens must be realistic in their expectations.
“If the Bill took over two decades to be passed into law, then we must be realistic in our expectations while still keeping our eyes on the purpose of the law,” he added.
Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said the RTI law was not applicable only to the Public Sector, but also the Private Sector, adding that the Minister of Information was yet to come with a Legislative Instrument to operationalise that aspect of the Law.
“We know from experience that information from Private Sector is also of keen interest, especially to the investigative journalists. The appropriate benchmarking shall have to be provided in the ensuing Regulations,” he said.
The Minister is working assiduously to put together an initial framework with a supporting budget to be considered and accommodated in the Mid-Year Budget Review.
The resource allocation will relate to the recruitment and training of qualified staff to man the information offices in all public offices, including all MDAs and MMDAs, Parliament, the Judiciary, the Independent Government Institutions, among others.
He said the collective will and effort should ensure a smooth take-off of the implementation of the law in January 2020.
Dr Evans Aggrey-Darkoh, the Chief Director, Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, said the collaboration with Civil Society Organisations also fitted into government’s already expressed willingness, to work with the RTI Coalition on the road map for full implementation of the RTI law, to enhance good democratic governance.
Participants were drawn from the Leadership of Parliament, Democratic Enhancing Civil Society Organisations, members of the Advisory Board of the Ministry, Stakeholders, Management and Staff of the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs.