Private legal practitioner and campaigner for the passage of the Right to Information Law, Lawyer Samson Ayenini says lawyers of the Electoral Commission had no business responding to a request by Member of Parliament for Ashaiman Constituency, Ernest Norgbey, requiring information on some procurement processes undertaken by the EC.
The Member of Parliament relying on the Right to Information Law requested details on how the EC selected its consultants for the upcoming December 7 polls.
He demanded information on how the Commission contracted the services of Dr. Ofori-Adjei, IT Consultant and Mr. A. Akrofi, Procurement Consultant and whether the said procurement was done in accordance with Part 6 of the Public Procurement Act.
But the EC in a response to the request through its lawyers, Amenuvor and Associates, said as ready and willing as the commission is in honouring the request, it is not able to do so because fees and charges applicable for assessing information under the RTI Law are yet to be passed by parliament.
Reacting to this on Joy News’ PM Express, Lawyer Ayenini said though the applicant, understanding the gravity of the issue, made his request through his lawyers, lawyers of the commission had no business involving themselves in the matter.
He said, rather, the response should have come from the commission's information officer who by law is mandated to perform such tasks.
“If this is a situation where someone sees the information they are searching for so seriously that they use a lawyer to make the request, you have no business in using yours to be replying that request. You are required by law to have designated your information officer in your entity.”
Describing the actions of the commission and its lawyers as shameful, Lawyer Ayenini said the EC could have shown more respect to the Member of Parliament and the taxpayer in their handling of the request.
“This is not an ordinary member of the public, this is a Member of Parliament who is representing people in that parliament. If he makes a request for information, you have no business treating the information as if it were your personal property generated with your private funds.”
Prior to the passage of the RTI Bill into law, a lot of critics raised concerns about the likelihood of public institutions holding on to information that were going to be requested.
The request by the Member of Parliament for Ashaiman happens to be the first official test of the RTI since its passage in parliament on March 26, 2019, and its subsequent presidential accession on May 21, 2019.
The law, however, became effective on January 1 this year.