The Coalition on Right to Information (RTI) on Tuesday denied allegations it was delaying the RTI legislative process stressing that, ample evidence proved otherwise.
Nana Oye Lithur, Convener of the Coalition on RTI, who made the denial at a press conference in Accra, said the Coalition had consistently provided technical and additional support to Parliament and relevant stakeholders throughout the RTI’s Bill legislative process.
She said the Majority Leader in Parliament, Cletus Avoka at a press conference on May 16, 2012, said the RTI Coalition was part of the problem for the delay in passing the Bill because it had delayed in submitting its proposals for a review of the relevant clauses in the Bill, adding that, it had partly grounded the work of Parliament.
Nana Oye added that on May 7, 2012, Mr. Avoka said on a radio station that passage of the RTI Bill was not a priority for Parliament but that the Petroleum Revenue and Commission Bills were more of a priority.
She described the statements and accusation as regrettable.
Recounting some activities undertaken by the Coalition to educate the public and to assist government institutions and parliamentarians on the passage of the bill, Nana Oye said “Since the process begun in 2003, the Coalition has supported it at the Attorney General‘s Department and when it was submitted to Cabinet for consideration and adoption and subsequently to Parliament. It has also supported the processes at the Joint Committee on Communication and Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs level.”
She said the Coalition submitted a detailed memorandum on the Bill to Parliament in April 2010, and followed this with the distribution of 230 copies of the Coalition’s publication containing a clause by clause commentary on the RTI Bill to all Members of Parliament in April 2010.
Nana Oye said the Coalition had also distributed 230 leaflets of ‘Why you need the RTI Bill’ and other RTI literature materials to Parliament to further enhance their appreciation on the Bill.
“Apart from resource materials on RTI, the Coalition has had several engagements with Parliament since the Bill was laid in March 2010. The Coalition held a workshop with 32 members of the Joint Committee on Communication and Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs on the Bill on June 9, 2010 at the Kofi Annan Centre.
It has held series of breakfast and roundtable discussions with the Subsidiary Legislative Committee, the Parliamentary Committee on Finance, the Parliamentary Committee on Poverty Reduction and the Public Accounts Committee,” she said.
Nana Oye stated that the Coalition had had one-on-one engagements and lobby meetings with members of Parliament, some of whom included Mr. Avoka, Mr. Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu, Minority Leader, Professor Mike Ocquaye, Second Deputy Speaker, Dr. Annan, Mr. Maxwell Kofi Jumah, Ahmed Ibrahim, Muntaka Mubarak, Kwame Osei Prempeh and Abubakar Sumani.
She said the Coalition had been able to reach out to all the 230 members of Ghana’s Parliament through the distribution of its RTI educational materials and had had personal interaction with 105 members of Parliament on the Right to Information Bill through the Coalition’s advocacy activities.
Nana Oye said on March 17, 2012, the Coalition, with the support of the World Bank, facilitated a Parliamentary meeting on the regional consultations.
“Subsequently, the Coalition has prepared and forwarded an expert opinion on the Bill to the World Bank on May 7, 2012. Copies of the expert opinion with the World Bank’s authorisation were forwarded to Parliament on May 21, 2012, and made available to the Majority and Minority leaders, and members of the Joint Committee,” she added.
Nana Oye gave the assurance that the Coalition was committed to support the legislative making process.
“While we are committed to seeing the passage of the Bill without any further delay, we are not simply interested in passing any Bill into law. Equally important for us is the need to pass into law, a bill that meets international standards and best practices, and enhances transparency, accountability and open government,” she added.
Nana Oye said the Coalition remained ready to offer its full support, adding that, it would cooperate with Parliament to ensure that the RTI was passed before the Fifth Parliament of the Republic of Ghana lapses on January 7, 2013.
“We urge the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Communication and Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to, without any further delays, expedite action on its Report for submission to the House for consideration and adoption,” she said.
Nana Oye described the effective RTI legislation as having the potential to entrench democracy, transparency and accountability and promote development.
Mr. Akoto Ampaw, a legal practitioner and a member of the Coalition, said the provision of maximum disclosure in the Bill was undermined by factors such as type of exemptions, unduly long timelines for disclosure, cumbersome and rather expensive fee regime, non-accessible review or appeals mechanism and a lack of coverage of certain categories of private bodies.
He said the Coalition had tabled their concerns and suggestions before Parliament to enable them to pass into law a legislation that met not only international human rights standards, but also one that was in harmony with the provisions in the 1992 Constitution.
Prof Kwame Karikari, Executive Director of Media Foundation for West Africa, said Ghana needed to learn from shining examples of countries within the sub-region that had successfully implemented the RTI.
He said the countries included Nigeria, Tanzania and Liberia.**