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Opinions Sun, 16 Feb 2014

678 vs. 692 Presidential Staffers

.....What Difference Does That Make?

By Cletus D Kuunifaa

The notion of “You did, I do; I do, you do; outdoing, outwitting, doing people in “ is outmoded politics, obsolete and should be abhorred by all of us. What difference does it make in these numbers, if these presidential staffers are performing their duties to the best of their abilities? Additionally, isn’t it a constitutional mandate to fulfill per Section 11 of the Presidential Act 1993 (Act 463), which demands that the President submits a list of staffers to the House annually? The fact that parliament endorses the list from the executive makes these appointments even legitimate. Therefore, I find it a waste of time for people making reference to these numbers as if these guys are the highest paid officials in Ghana.

What should rather be of concern is how to make sure Ghana is gaining from these appointments by the service these employees render to the nation. Bottom line, they must be qualified and competent enough individuals in their various fields of work. There must be supervision and monitoring to make sure that these employees perform their duties to the fullest. What is not appropriate to do is to be hurling insults and calling each other names in a way to paint one faction black and the other white just to gain some political capital? To say the least, this is uncalled for and at worst, amateurish in politics.

I like, however, to connect the dots on this brouhaha about the disclosure of presidential staffers and state emphatically that there is need for the passage of the RTI bill, which is still languishing in Parliament? I have said and still maintain that access to information and transparency should be considered a vaccine for ensuring good governance and Ghana must gear up for this vaccine to ensure accountability and prevent corruption.

At this point, at what stage is the FOI bill in Parliament? Is it even currently at a deliberative stage? Who brings it up to the floor for deliberation? Or is it languishing somewhere on the shelves in Parliament? Ghanaians need to know, now! We need answers to these questions, right now! We need answers urgently to these questions, because the issue of transparency is of much relevance to politics and to our political dispensation. Had we had an RTI law, we would have probably been in the know of these numbers earlier than expected. This would have undoubtedly added to the level of transparency in governance. Let me stress here and now that the benefits of passing an RTI bill now far outweighs the delay of its passage. The reasons are not farfetched: I have argued in one of my publications that information society must be located within a human rights framework in order to advocate for unrestrictive access to information, especially public information held by government (http://conference.ifla.org/past/2011/141-kuunifaa-en.pdf) I also share the belief that the value of information as a human right is unquestionable, and the reason why information is read into the guarantee of a human right which is spelled out in many of the international treaties and in national constitutions. Passing an RTI bill does not only play an important role in the aspect of human dignity, not to mention it being the best means of ascertaining the truth, but most crucially, it is a fundamental underpinning of democracy. As Mendel pointed out, the aspect of democracy is perhaps most crucial (2003) because at a more principled level, democracy is quintessentially about ensuring that governments perform in accordance with the will of the people.

Let parliament do the heavy lifting of tabling the motion and discussing it to have this bill passed into law to operationalize the constitutional right to information under article 21(1) f of the 1992 constitution. This bill, when passed into law, will consolidate the rights of journalists and the public to access information from government officials and public institutions without hindrance. This will enhance transparency and make government officials accountable to the people they are supposed to serve. Thus, there would have been nothing to hide on the part of Government as citizen would have had access to information even when request is not made through the standout feature of the bill in the Proactive Disclosure clause.

Cletus D. Kuunifaa, Long Island University, LIU Post, New York. Can be contacted at dipnibe@yahoo.com or Follow him on twitter @ckuunifaa

Reference

Kuunifaa, C. (2011). Access to information legislation as a means to achieve transparency in Ghanaian governance: Lessons from the Jamaican experience. IFLA Journal. Vol. 38(2).

Mendel , T. ( 2003). “Freedom of Information as an Internationally Protected Human Right” Retrieved Feb. 13, 2014 from www.article19.org

Columnist: Kuunifaa, Cletus D