The Media Coalition on the Right To Information (RTI) has expressed mixed feelings at the passage of the RTI.
Though the Coalition welcomes the passage of the two-decades-old bill, it said Parliament should have considered the ‘last minute’ proposed amendments by the Coalition and other interested groups.
“We were disappointed that final suggestions that we were making to the Bill were not accepted because the way Clause 13 is in its current state is very ambiguous and could be exploited to exempt a lot of information that could be of use to Ghanaians,” Mr Clement Akoloh, a Steering Committee Member of the Coalition, told the Ghanaian Times in an interview in Parliament yesterday.
“With the way things happened in the chamber prior to the passage, we felt that there was no need to hasten the passage of the Bill.
“Now that we all know that implementation takes effect in January 2020, we thought that there was enough time to deal with the Clause 13 in particular which deals with our reservations about the Act in its current form,” he added.
Parliament late Tuesday night passed the RTI amidst drama as the Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, sought to arrest the third reading prior to the passage to allow for a second consideration.
His action, he said, was on behalf of civil society organisations who wanted clauses 2, 13, 18 and 41 relooked.
Clause 13, the focal point of the Coalition’s concerns states that “information is exempt from disclosure where the disclosure will reveal (a) an opinion or advice (b) a recommendation, consultation or deliberation made to public institutions is likely to undermine the deliberative process in that public institution.”
This, Mr Akoloh said was problematic and leaves a lacuna in the law which could be exploited by public office holders.
Unsure of how soon an amendment would be brought to the House for the grey areas to be sorted out, Clement Akoloh said the Coalition would not renege on its advocacy as it intends to bring to bear another pressure on duty bearers to have their concerns addressed.
After two decades of non-approval, the RTI which now awaits Presidential Assent to be fully recognised as law will provide for the operationalisation of the constitutional right to information by the public and some private institutions, subject to conditions that are necessary and consistent with the protection of public interest in a democratic society.
It also seeks to foster a culture of transparency and accountability in public discourse.
The RTI Bill was first drafted in 1999, reviewed in 2003, 2005 and 2007 but was only presented to Parliament in 2010. It was brought back to the sixth Parliament but could not be passed till the expiration of that Parliament on January 6, 2016.
Momentum, however, to get the bill passed gathered in 2017 following the formation of the Media Coalition on RTI and other bodies which have in the past 11 months, piled pressure on Parliament to pass it.
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