It has now emerged that majority of Ghanaian Members of Parliament (MPs) are not interested in the passage of the Right to Information Bill (RTI) into law.
The Media Coalition on the RTI that made this observation says more than 200 MPs have for the beginning of Third Meeting demonstrated their lack of interest in the passage of the bill by their continuous absence on the floor of the House whenever the bill comes up for consideration.
In a statement released on Monday, the Media Coalition on the Right to Information Bill said they consider the actions of the MPs as deliberate strategy to once again frustrate the passage of the bill into law.
“Ever since Parliament returned from recess, over 200 Members of Parliament are consistently absent from the Chamber anytime the RTI Bill is up for consideration. It is on record that only between 30 and 50 MPs are in the Chamber anytime the RTI is up for consideration in the past two weeks”, the statement released by the Coalition in part read.
The deliberate attempts by the MPs to frustrate the passage of the RTI Bill into law, according to the Media Coalition, is worsened by the lack of seriousness shown by the leadership of the House.
“This bad practice is giving credence to public suspicions that a high number of MPs are against the passage of the RTI Bill but do not want to openly say so”, the statement noted.
Below is the full statement:
Over 200 MPs abandon RTI Bill.
The Media Coalition on Right to Information (RTI) and the RTI Coalition have noticed the lackadaisical attitude of Members of Parliament (MPs) towards the RTI Bill.
In our view, this constitutes a deliberate strategy to once again frustrate the passage of the Bill into law.
Ever since parliament returned from recess, over 200 Members of Parliament are consistently absent from the Chamber anytime the RTI Bill is up for consideration.
It is on record that only between 30 and 50 MPs are in the chamber anytime the RTI Bill is up for consideration in the past two weeks.
The New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member of Parliament (MP) for Adansi Asokwa, Kobina Tahiru Hammond, who has openly said that he is against the law has taken advantage of the situation to stop the House from considering the Bill by raising the issue of quorum.
He has found a strong ally in Samuel Nartey George, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) MP for Ningo-Prampram, who has also resorted to the quorum call to frustrate the consideration of the Bill.
A third of the 275 legislators, which stands at 92 are needed to form a quorum in the House.
In view of these negative developments, the Media Coalition on RTI petitioned the leadership of Parliament to adopt extended sittings to ensure that the Bill is passed before Parliament rises for the Christmas break.
To our surprise, the leadership of parliament has not considered our request necessary and therefore did not show any seriousness as usual.
There were only 2 days of extended sittings and both ended before 4PM.
We are minded by the fact that Parliament has sat on Monday’s, weekends and sometimes late into the night just to pass some laws in this country and to approve of loan agreements.
Therefore, the ongoing absenteeism anytime the RTI Bill is up for consideration is unacceptable.
This bad practice is giving credence to public suspicions that a high number of MPs are against the passage of the RTI Bill but do not want to openly say so.
At the beginning of the current meeting on October 30, 2018, the Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah- Bonsu, gave the assurance that the House would pass the RTI Bill into law before it rises in December, 2018. He actually said the leadership was committed to finishing work on the bill before November 15th, 2018 when the budget will be presented to the house.
It is sad that parliament is not worried that its Leader of Government Business has made promises to the people of Ghana but the actions of the House suggests that our MPs see themselves as lords over those who elected them and therefore can renege on their promises at will.
The RTI Bill has passed through the first and second readings and is at the consideration stage, with 138 amendments mostly substitution or deletion of words proposed to be considered by the House.
The object of the RTI Bill is to provide for the operationalisation of the constitutional right to information held by public and some private institutions, subject to exemptions 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 affairs and to provide for related matters.
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.
After months of waiting, the Bill was laid in Parliament early this year (2018) by the Deputy Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Joseph Dindiok Kpemka.
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