Right to Information
Right to Information

From Alhaji Alhasan Abdulai

The Coalition for the Right to Information expresses confidence in Ghana?s parliament to pass the Right to Information Bill currently before parliament into law to enhance openness and accountability in governance.
The coalition made up of civil society organizations expresses satisfaction on work done so far on the bill by the parliamentary select committee working on the bill and calls on all parliamentarians to attach importance to the bill. In an official statement release yesterday, Ugonna Ukaigwe, the coordinator of the coalition appeals to all parliamentarians to unanimously endorse the proposals made by the select committee in the RTI bill.

Right to Information
Right to Information

The statement is meant to enlighten the public on work done so far on the RTI bill by the coalition and parliament whose passage would lead to openness accountability and good governance:

Introduction
Sometime in March 2014, the RTI Coalition began a series of publications to highlight the major concerns on the RTI Bill currently in Parliament. After series of engagement with CSOs, the Parliamentary Select Committee reviewed all the areas of concern raised by the Coalition and have made proposals to Parliament for the amendment of the Bill. The Bill is currently awaiting the second reading by Parliament to make way for discussions and debate by the whole house.

The Coalition believes that the recommendations made by the Committee on the RTI Bill are enough to enhance openness and promote accountability in our governance system and build public confidence in our public institutions. We therefore call on all our Parliamentarians to unanimously endorse these robust proposals by the Select Committee.

In this series, we bring to you the current proposals that have been made by the Select Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs alongside the original draft that has now been reviewed and the suggestions made by the Coalition. We will also analyze their implications for the ordinary Ghanaian for public awareness and better understanding of the Bill and to galvanize public support for the proposals made by the Select Committee.

1. Maximum Disclosure:

Based on International Standards, maximum disclosure is the overriding principle of any effective right to information law. The presumption is that all the information held by public bodies can be accessed by members of the public and that any restrictions should only be justified where necessary for the protection of public interest or the rights and freedoms of others. Every person, citizen and non-citizen of Ghana, has a human right to request and receive information and the government has an obligation to disclose requested information.The government has a responsibility to proactively publish and disseminate key documents

What the Ghana RTI Bill provides:

On the Bill maximum disclosure is undermined by the following:

1. Numerous exemptions, some of which are loosely worded and unnecessarily repeated without being adequately subjected to the harms test.
2. Unduly long timelines for disclosure
3. Cumbersome and rather expensive fee regime
4. Inaccessible review/appeals mechanism
5. Lack of coverage of private bodies.

Suggestions made to the Select Committee by CSOs:
The Coalition proposed that:

1. Maximum disclosure should be upheld throughout the Bill.
2. The numerous exemptions should be reviewed and subjected to the harms test.
3. amendment of the unnecessarily long timelines for disclosure
4. fees should not be a deterrent to accessing information
5. review and Appeals processes should be made accessible
6. Private bodies that perform public functions should be covered by the Bill

All the issues raised by the Coalition in relation to the above were addressed by the Select Committee. The Committee has critically reviewed and proposed amendments to all the clauses on the Bill relating to Exemptions, Timelines, Fees, Appeals Processes and Inclusion of Private Bodies. These proposals by the Select Committee on the various clauses of the Bill listed above will be brought to you in subsequent editions.

Source: UgonnaUkaigwe, Right to Information Coalition, Ghana, May 2015, and

Executive director
EANFOWORLD FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
0244 370345/ 0264370345/0208844791 [email protected]/[email protected]

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