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Regional News Sat, 24 Aug 2013

Rectify anomalies in RTI Bill - NGO

Mrs Mena Mensah, Regional Coordinator, Africa Office of the Commonwealth of Human Rights Initiative, said the Right to Information Bill had many challenges which needed to be amended before it was passed.

She expressed worry that Cabinet said it had approved the bill, which is yet to be put before Parliament, but its content and inputs made were still not known to the public, especially civil society organisations which are masterminding the passage of the bill.

Mrs Mensah was speaking at a training workshop on the RTI, organized by CHRI in collaboration with Mission of Hope Society and sponsored by Open Society Institute, a civil society organization.

The Commonwealth of Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) is a Non-Governmental Organisation that advocates the passage of the Right to Information (RTI) Bill.

The workshop aims at creating awareness on citizens’ right to information and building a constituency committed to seeking information based on provision in existing laws.

It was attended by assembly members, civil society organizations, media practitioners and students from tertiary institutions.

Mrs Mensah explained that the draft RTI Bill had exempted many public office holders and private institutions from giving out information to seekers adding that this needed to be considered.

She said in March 2012, the Parliamentary Select Committee on Communications and Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, held a review meeting at which it was decided that certain key issues within the Bill needed to be revisited or improved upon in order to bring it in conformity with international Human Rights standards and best practices.

Mrs Mensah noted with concern that civil society organisations had not gained access to the content of the RTI Bill which Cabinet said it had approved to ascertain whether those key issues identified by the committee had been considered.

She recommended that the Cabinet-approved Bill ought to be made public for civil society organisations, NGOs and concerned individuals and groups to know the content and make, if necessary, meaningful contributions.

Mrs Mensah explained that the passage of the RTI would facilitate accelerated national development as Ghana’s choice of democracy entailed active participation by all and sundry.

She said it was only when citizens were well informed that they could make meaningful contributions for national development.

Madam Esther Ahulu, Project Officer of CHRI, noted that the RTI is a fundamental human right guaranteed by the 1992 Constitution and was recognised as a right by international conventions on human rights.

She was optimistic that participants would be well informed to enable them to appreciate the need to seek information based on provisions in existing laws as well as advocate the need for the passage of an effective RTI Bill into law.

Source: GNA