General News of Sat, 30 Sep 20174

Without RTI Special Prosecutor’s Office will be frustrated - Coalition

The Right to Information Coalition-Ghana has reiterated the need for the passage of the RTI bill, saying the absence of the law does not help the image of the country.

Project Coordinator of the Coalition, Ugonna Ukaigwe said without an RTI law, the office of the yet-to-be-established Special Prosecutor will be useless since it will need information to operate.

Speaking on a special edition of Joy FM's Ghana Connect sponsored by Star-Ghana Friday, she said efforts to fight corruption will not yield the required results if the passage of the RTI bill is not prioritised.

"We need to see that Ghana is losing its reputation at the global level because of the promises were made [that the bill would be passed] at the global level not just in Ghana," she said.

The Office of the Special Prosecutor is a campaign promise by the Nana Akufo-Addo-led NPP to take away some of the prosecutorial duties of the Attorney-General who is often deemed to be influenced politically and hand same over to an independent Office of the Special Prosecutor.

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The rationale is to avoid the never-ending stories and allegations of political witch-hunting which has bedevilled prosecutions of political officers in the past.

But Madam Ukweigu said the government should stop paying lip service about passing the bill and deliver on its promise if it wants the Special Prosecutor to be effective.

Also, she said the current system where a person is denied access to public information is problematic and needs to be reviewed.

Ghana’s attempt to pass the RTI bill started in 1999 when it was first drafted by the former President Jerry John Rawlings regime.

The bill has since gone through a number of reviews in 2003, 2005 and 2007 to correct some inconsistencies lawmakers and RTI Coalition claimed were present in the bill.

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Last year marked the 13th year the country tried to pass the bill but has failed.

Madam Ukweigu questioned government’s commitment to passing the bill after the Attorney-General in May promised that the bill will be passed when the just ended Parliamentary session begins.

“Sadly though, it was not even listed. Although there were other bills, given the peculiar nature of the RTI Bill, it should have been specifically listed as part of bills. It just wasn’t there,” she said.

According to her, the Vice President also spoke about how happy he will be when the bill is passed within Akufo-Addo’s 100 days in office “but here we are in September and I hear the next Parliament is going to be discussing the Budget.”

Madam Ukweigu charged Members of Parliament (MPs) to discuss the bills they are working on and their importance to the lives of their constituents and the country in general to start a public debate.

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She believes if this was done and the constituents get to understand the importance of the RTI bill, they will force MPs to pass the bill.

Chairman of Parliament’s Legal and Constitutional Committee, Ben Abdallah, who was also on the programme could not assure parliament will pass the bill when it resumes.

“I believe that Nana Akufo-Addo is someone who does not want the public to be put in the dark regarding what is happening in his government. A number of bills like the Zongo Development bill which is also important,” he said.

According to him, it is too early for anyone to be judgmental about the current administration since it has four years to deliver on promises made to Ghanaians.

“To the extent that the President promised that in his tenure, people should rest assured that the RTI Bill before the four-year tenure, the bill will be passed.

Multimedia journalist Manasseh Azure Awuni who was also a panellist blamed Parliament as an institution for not being proactive and ready to work and pass the bill.

“It is not only the case of the Executive because I think Parliament should also take the bigger blame. This is not the first time the bill is coming to them," he said.

He believes it is as if the two governments of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and National Democratic Congress (NDC) are unwilling to pass it.

“It is as though they are afraid of scrutiny because Ghanaians will be asking questions like MP’s common funds and how it is used,” he said.

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