Parliament has finally approved the Right to Information (RTI) Bill after two decades.
The Bill which was passed after its third reading at 8:30 pm on Tuesday, March 26, will now await Presidential assent to be fully recognised as law.
The RTI law will provide for the operationalisation of the constitutional right to information held by the public and some private institutions, subject to exemptions that are necessary and consistent with the protection of public interest in a democratic society.
It also seeks to foster a culture of transparency and accountability in public affairs and to provide for related matters.
The RTI Bill was first drafted in 1999, reviewed in 2003, 2005 and 2007 but was only presented to Parliament in 2010. It was brought back to the Sixth Parliament but could not be passed till the expiration of that Parliament on January 6, 2016.
Momentum, however, to get the bill passed gathered in 2017 following the formation of the Media Coalition on RTI and other bodies which have in the past 11 months, piled pressure on Parliament to pass it.
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Some members of Parliament had feared that the passage of the Bill will rob the government of confidential information.
Adansi Asokwa MP, K.T. Hammond, acknowledged that although its passage will be useful to journalists, it may not necessarily augur well for governance in the country.
“You need peace of mind to run a government. You need to concentrate and if you have a bill and before the ink dries on it, somebody is asking you to ‘bring this document’…to the extent that we are talking about communication between the president, the vice president and cabinet, potentially, there will be no secret in government,” he said.
But it appears the Speaker of Parliament and government have kept to their assurances of getting the Bill passed.
The law will, however, be implemented at the beginning of 2020.
The Bill almost went unpassed as Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu called for further amendments to be made to it, Joy News’ Joseph Opoku Gakpo reported from Parliament.
He had wanted to evoke Order 130 which allows for any amendments to be made to any Bill before its third reading.
Mr Iddrisu also cited Clause 41, 18 and 21 as the basis for his demand for “a second consideration stage of the Bill.”
The Majority Leader, Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu disagreed.
Calling out Mr Iddrisu for being “always in a hurry,” he did not see the need for his request, adding that “the Minority Leader should wait until we make a pronouncement on the proposal.”
Tempers flared following the Majority Leader’s comment but the Speaker was able to bring the situation under control leading to the successful passage of the Bill.
When the 2nd Deputy Speaker, Alban Bagbin, who oversaw proceedings today, expressed joy that “at long last, the RTI Bill has now survived in this House.”