Government intends to recruit 600 Right to Information Officers to man information units at various public institutions before the Right to Information (RTI) law is implemented next year.These officers will also be provided with equipment to aid their work. This is part of the roadmap towards the implementation of the Right to Information Act.
Minister of Information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah made this known during the first level training for Chief Directors and Regional Coordinating Directors on the RTI law towards its operationalisation in January 2020.
The participants were drawn from the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) across the country and taken through data mapping exercise, basic rudiments of the Data Protection Law and setting up of information units.
The RTI law seeks to give effect to Article 21 (1) (f) of the 1992 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”.
Mr Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, the Minister of Information, speaking to the media on the relevance of the capacity-building workshop at the Civil Service Training Centre in Accra, said the training would enable the participants to be abreast with the new law and support the government’s implementation drive.
He said Government would establish 600 information units across the country and recruit information officers to manage them after building their capacities on the new law.
He added that government would equip the information units with the requisite equipment in order for them to deliver on their mandates.
He said the cost of the operationalisation of the law had been forwarded to the Ministry of Finance to ensure timely release of funds to the various information units.
The minister said a test run would be conducted in December this year, to assess the readiness of the various information units and personnel before the actual implementation in January 2020.
He said the recruitment of the information officers will also help create employment for some 600 citizens.
Mr Oppong Nkrumah also announced that all budgetary allocation for the roadmap has been given to the Ministry of Finance for approval.
He said once the Ministry approves the budget, it will be made known to the public.
Mr Ben Abdallah Banda, Chairperson of the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, for his part, said the RTI law required Government pro-actively provide strategic information to the public without necessarily waiting for someone to apply for it.
However, he said there were certain information that were exempted from the public domain, explaining that such exemption was grounded within the RTI Act.
Mr Abdallah Banda, who is also the Member of Parliament for Offinso South, said information pertaining to any public institutions or entities undertaking public projects were supposed to be given out to the public, except that, that information was classified under the law.
He said any law concerning release of information that contradicted the provisions in the RTI Act, the RTI law will always reign supreme.
Mr Abdallah Banda explained that a provision had been made for translation of information requested by an applicant into a suitable language of his or her choice, but the applicant was supposed to bear the cost of translation.
Mr Felix Chaahaah, the Volta Regional Coordinating Director, who is also a participant at the workshop, in an interview with the media, said the training had been beneficial and believed it would enhance accountability and transparency of the public service.
He expressed optimism that the manual records of the various ministries, departments and agencies would be digitised before January next year, so that information requested by the public could be released in its soft copy.
He said frantic efforts were underway to equip the information units with computers and other facilities, in order to serve the public effectively.
President Akufo-Addo earlier this year assented to the Right to Information Act which was passed by Parliament. The government then prepared a roadmap for its implementation.
The roadmap includes establishing information centres in all government offices, the establishment of the RTI Commission and completion of various administrative protocols before the commencement of the next fiscal year.