Opinions Sat, 17 Mar 2018

Samson’s Take: RTI law will kill the corrupt, pass it now!

It’s been 22 years since the IEA pioneered the first draft of the Right to Information (RTI) Bill. Government did its draft RTI Bill reviewed it in 2003, 2005 and 2007 but never took it to Parliament until February 5, 2010.

The Right to Information Bill has since suffered a series of failed promises to pass it. The NPP and NDC have simply paid lip service and deliberately refused to pass it to empower citizens to demand accountability on compulsion of law. The 5th and 6th parliaments failed to pass it giving absolutely ridiculous excuses.

The RTI Coalition with key spokespersons like Lawyer Akoto Ampaw and Mina Mensah advocated for poor citizens relentlessly despite the deliberate acts to frustrate them to give up the fight. Later in 2016, the Multimedia Group and I petitioned Speaker Doe Adjaho to prioritize its passage over the SpyBill.

The house swung into action but it was election time and the NDC majority most shockingly and unprecedentedly allowed the NPP minority to botch the process.

Campaigning was more important than making themselves available to pass a law President John Mahama and officers of State had promised citizens and the international community they will pass.

The NPP was interested in a possible election victory and a political advantage in taking the glory for the passage of the RTI law. They didn’t bother that that would be the third time the bill will have to be reintroduced and the process started all over again at the expense of the poor taxpayer.

No bill has been thoroughly done as this, yet it has never been deemed urgent to enjoy the swift passage that many bills prepared overnight have enjoyed. In fact, when the NPP promised to pass it, I thought it would be the first they would pass on winning the elections. Despite assurances including a firm declaration by Minister for Information, Mustapha Hamid, that the RTI Bill would be laid in Parliament in July 2017, the Bill was not part of the many placed in the house and passed since the NPP assumed office.

This, including the fact that the President made no mention of it in his last State of the Nation Address got the RTI ACTION CAMPAIGN GROUP gathering at Alisa Hotel in February to strategize and issuing a statement demanding timelines for its passage.

The group had the CDD, GII, TUC, GIBA, MFWA, IMANI, and over thirty other CSO’s uniting in the call for action (others include Occupy Ghana, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, RTI Coalition, Citi FM, Adom FM, Alliance for Women in Media, Joy FM, Daily Graphic, Business Day, Legal Resources Centre, Ghana Coalition for NGO’s in Health, CSO Platform on SDG’s, GIBA, Centre of Employment for Persons with Disability, POS Foundation, TUC, Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition).

The RTI ACTION CAMPAIGN GROUP invites all to remind H.E President Nana Akufo Addo of his March 6, pledge to have the RTI Bill laid and passed before Parliament rises. Mr President, Parliament rises on March 23, 2018. The RTI Bill is not on the order paper detailing business for next week. Well, it is not too late to lay it on an order paper addendum. It is obviously not possible for this session to pass it.

Please, at the minimum, just lay this democracy-entrenching and citizen-empowering law for passage at the next session starting May, to give meaning to the article 21 “right to information”; to give meaning to the article 41 citizens duty “to protect and preserve public property and expose and combat misuse and waste of public funds and property”.

Truth is, this law should have been passed before the Office of Special Prosecutor Act. The corruption fight will not be won without an RTI law. Let’s together help the President do right by us and NOW! The RTI is a democratic imperative. The 10-day countdown started Wednesday is on. 7 days more to go.

Supplying public information to citizens and the media must not remain at the whim of officers who are paid with our taxes, housed, transported and fed by us but who feel information about how they spend our money or govern is their private or family property. A promise made on Independence Day must be kept. Your integrity, sir!
Columnist: Samson Lardy Anyenini