Twenty-five professional bodies including Ghana Bar Association, Polytechnic Teachers Association and Ghana Medical Association, have urged the Attorney-General and Parliament, to pass the Right to Information Bill into law without delay.
The Attorney General and Minister for Justice should expedite the drafting of the relevant amendments to the Bill and ensure that the amendments faithfully capture the deliberations and decisions of the Select Committee, they said.
?We call on Parliament, without further delay, to pass the Bill, with the relevant amendments into law and for the President to give his assent to the Bill,? the group said in a communiqu? copied to the Ghana News Agency on Saturday.
The communiqu?, developed at a workshop on November 12, in Accra on the theme: ?An Effective RTI Legislation, a Necessary Tool for development,? was organised by the Coalition on the RTI, Ghana.
The Select Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs had made raft of proposals to the bill lingering over a decade, a move the Right to Information (RTI) Coalition endorsed.
Some of the revisions included cutting short the long list of exemptions, which has now been subjected to a harm test, thereby banishing blanket exemptions from the Bill and further strengthening the proactive disclosure clause.
It also reduced excessive timelines for granting access to information as well as inclusion of the establishment of an independent oversight Commission to oversee implementation of the Bill when passed, instead of the office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice being responsible for implementation;
The communiqu? urged parliament and the public to support the proposals so that Ghana does not retrogress in the steps towards the passage of an information law that would help protect the integrity of public institutions, promote participation, transparency and accountability in public life.
?We resolve to take various actions within the remit of the law to mobilise our constituent members and Ghanaians in general in support of an effective and robust right to information law as proposed by the Select Committee,? the group warned.
It noted that the citizens? right to information as guaranteed by the 1992 Constitution is a fundamental human right subject not to the inclinations and dictates of any individual or authority but to those limitations that are necessary in a democratic society as prescribed by law.
The Ghana Right to Information Bill, 2010, which seeks to provide concrete legal mechanisms and procedures by which all persons could exercise and assert the right to access information in the custody of public institutions and categories of private bodies was resubmitted to Parliament on November 12, 2013.
It was subsequently referred to the Select Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs for scrutiny.
The Select Committee, after series of consultations with civil society organisations and other stakeholders proposed revisions to the content of the Bill in line with the African Union Model Law and the Options Paper submitted to the Committee by the Coalition.
The proposals were endorsed by Parliament and described by the coalition as a huge step towards the passage of a strong RTI Bill that would add to Ghana?s credentials of being one of the shining examples of democratic practice in Africa.
The communiqu? expressed the hope that any access to information law for Ghana should be consistent with the very clear provisions of Article 21(1) (f) of the 1992 Constitution.
?A strong right to information legislation in Ghana will help to consolidate our democracy and build public confidence in our public institutions,? the communiqu? added.
Some of the groups that support the RTI are National Catholic Secretariat, Architects Registration Council, Ghana Institute of Architects, Ghana National Association of Small Scale Miners, Association of Building and Civil Engineers Contractors Ghana, All Africa Students Union and University Students Association of Ghana.
Others include Ghana Union of Professional Students, Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana, Federation of Museum Council, Association of Ghana Industries, Lady Pharmacists Association of Ghana, Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association, Institute of Chartered Accountants and Institute of Public Relations Ghana.
The rest are Ghana Institute of Planners, National Association of Graduate Teachers, Musicians Union of Ghana, Importers and Exporters Association, Private Newspapers Publishers Association of Ghana, Ghana Private Road Transport Union and National Union of Ghana Students.