Minister for Information Kojo Oppong Nkrumah has revealed that 285 public institutions have complied with the Right to Information (RTI) Act 2019 (ACT 989) requirements in the first year of its implementation.
He said out of this number, 219 public institutions submitted their annual reports on RTI activities within their respective institutions.
Additionally, an analysis of these reports revealed that 85 requests for information were received and processed in 32 public institutions. Besides, 72 requests were granted while others were deferred, transferred, referred or declined in accordance with the Act.
Mr Oppong Nkrumah made the observation when he briefed the House on the implementation of the RTI Act by public institutions for the period January to December 2020, and the RTI Commission’s Report on same.
The RTI Act provides for the constitutional right to information held by a public institution, subject to the exemptions that are necessary and consistent with the protection of the public interest in a democratic society.
The Act seeks to strengthen democracy, open governance, and sustainable development. The RTI Act was passed by Parliament assented to by the President on May 21, 2019.
Mr Oppong Nkrumah stated that section 86 of the Act made provision for the commencement of RTI implementation across public institutions by January 2020.
“I am happy to inform this august House that for the first 12 months after the commencement of this Act, significant gains have been made in the implementation of the Law by public institutions,” he added.
Mr Oppong Nkrumah also explained that following the passage of the Law, the Ministry of Information was task with the responsibility of ensuring that public institutions were adequately prepared to deliver satisfactorily on their obligations under the Act. It then led the process for the planning and implementation of a roadmap.
This was done in consultation with major stakeholders, including the Parliamentary Select Committee on Communications, the RTI Coalition, the Data Protection Commission, UNESCO Ghana, and the Heads of the Civil and Local Government Services.
He said the stakeholders guided the formation and development of appropriate and standardized systems and a framework for implementation of the RTI Act aimed at avoiding breaches and ensuring uninterrupted operationalisation.
Mr Oppong Nkrumah also indicated Access to Information (ATI) Division was established and commissioned within the Information Services Department on July 17, 2020.
The Division trains and deploys RTI Officers to MDAs to service access to information requests of the respective MDAs and provides back-end support to the RTI Officers on their day-to-day activities.
It is also responsible for executing all other obligations of the Minister under the RTI Act.
Mr Oppong Nkrumah also explained that at the beginning of year 2020, 539 public institutions comprising 263 Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and 260 Metropolitan, Municipal, District Assemblies (MMDAs), and 16 Regional Coordinating Councils were captured in the Ministry’s database as institutions required implementing the RTI Law within the country.
He said as part of transitional arrangements, a dossier comprising the Act, Standard Operating Procedures and Application Forms were distributed to all Sector Ministries, Local Government and Independent Public Institutions.
These documents were resource materials modelled around sections 5-19 and 23-25 of Act 989 and designed to assist public institutions to implement the law gradually from the beginning of 2020 until such a time that the internal processing systems and structures were fully put in place.
Mr Oppong Nkrumah revealed that between January to December 2020 a total of 478 Information Units were set up across the 539 institutions in accordance with Section 3(3)(b) of the Act.
He said a total of 1,055 Officers of the Public Services were engaged to play various roles in the implementation of the RTI Act. This comprised 478 designated RTI Officers, 478 Records Officers and 99 recruited Information Officers who were trained and resourced to facilitate the processing of requests received by the institution.
Per Section 3(1) of the RTI Act, each public institution is required to compile and publish an information manual to document the nature and scope of information that may be accessed by an applicant within that institution.