Mr Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, the Minister of Information, has challenged the Ghanaian media to be well grounded in the knowledge of the Right to Information (RTI) Act 989.
He said this would ensure a clear knowledge and understanding of the provisions of the new law and its core objectives, to enable them to empower the public to access their rights.
The Minister threw the challenge at the inauguration of the head office complex of the RTI Commission, and a media forum on the theme: “The Role of the Media in Promoting the Implementation of the RTI Act,” in Accra on Monday.
Mr Oppong Nkrumah said without the clear understanding of the provision of the new law by Journalists themselves, they may not be able to effectively utilize it for the benefit of the public, hence the need for building a strong collaboration with the Commission and other stakeholders to enhance their knowledge.
He advised journalist to collaborate with the RTI Commission to ensure accountability and good governance of all public and state institutions.
He however acknowledged the hard work and effort by all the key stakeholders in the processes leading to the enactment of the RTI Act in 2019, and its subsequent operation in 2020, saying it was the imputes that guided the formation and development of appropriate and standardized systems, as well as a framework for the implementation of the Law, to avoid breeches and to guarantee smooth operationalization.
The Minister explained that as part of the roadmap of the Act 989, the Access to Information Division was established and commissioned within the Information Services Department on July 17, 2020, and was responsible for training and deploring RTI Officers to Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA)s, to facilitate access to information requests of the respective institutions.
The Division also provides back-end support to these Offices and execute other responsibilities assigned to them by the responsible Ministry, he said.
He said the 539 RTI Officers who had been deployed across the country to respond to issues and requests of the public regarding access to information, had virtually no work to do because people were not requesting for much.
He mentioned the inauguration of the seven-member Board sworn-in by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo on October 19,2020 in accordance with Section 40 of Act 989 as one of the successes of the Commission, which served as an independent oversight body to promote, monitor, protect and enforce the right to access to information that was granted to any person under Article 21 (1) (f) of the 1992 Constitution.
He also explained that the Commission had since its inauguration submitted its Annual Report for 2020, which covered the period including June 2021 as required by Section 64 of the Act 989, and had been embarking on a number of activities including the determination of matters that had come before it.
Mr Oppong Nkrumah said the official opening of the Commission’s head office was another significant milestone in the implementation roadmap and demonstrated the government’s commitment to transparent and accountable governance in the fight against corruption.
He commended the Chairman and members of the RTI Governing Council for the work done so far, and hoped that they would continue to work tirelessly to safeguard the integrity of the RTI Act.
“While commending you for the bold work done so far, may I take the advantage of this ceremony to admonish you on three major things: firstly, to step up public education requirements as imposed on you by law so that more people would know of the functioning of the RTI Act and how to access it”.
Secondly, he charged the Council to continue to work with the Ministry, to quickly complete the Legislative Instrument that needed to be laid before Parliament so that the necessary impetus could be given to the Act to function fully, and not hesitate to call at, or even sanction public institutions that fell foul to the RTI Act.
Lastly, he reiterated the President’s call to the Commission to ensure that their work was guided by the Rule of Law, adherence to Freedom of Expression and Unequivocal attachment to justice.
Mr Yaw Sarpong, the Executive Secretary, RTI Commission, said regional and district offices were due to be opened in the near future across the country, and officially welcomed the public to its head office to access its services.
He said before now, the Commission had been involved in establishing the administrative and operational structures of its operations, and had so far made determinations on key review applications that had been brought before it by applicants for information across public institutions.
He said among the key activities undertaken by the Commission were the submission of draft guidelines to the Office of the Minister of Information, for the preparation of information manuals by public institutions as provided for in the RTI Act 2019 (Act 989), and also requested for, and received proposals and contributions in an effort to produce a draft LI for the consideration of Parliament.
He called for the support of the media to ensure the success of the implementation of the RTI law.