The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), Africa Regional Office, on Tuesday called on the Ghana?s Parliamentary Joint Committee working on the Right to Information (RTI) Bill to expedite action on the bill.
The RTI Bill has been going back and forth from one government to the other over the past 10 years, and it is time for Members of Parliament to connect it to the daily lives of the electorate they represent and their right to development.
Ms Mina Mensah, CHRI Africa Regional Coordinator told the Ghana News Agency in an interview that the a right to information law is a key element to development since it enables citizens to access information held by Government bodies, be it information on social, economic or political rights and, as a result, promote transparency and accountability.
?An access to information law promotes development because citizens are able to access and make good use of government intervention programmes, as well as hold government accountable for its actions.
?Every individual has the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kind, subject to such limitations as may be imposed by law and are necessary in a free and democratic society.
?Therefore, it is vital that a law is put in place that will streamline which information is available, how it is available, from whom and where,? Ms Mensah stated.
She noted that the law should aim at easing, rather than restricting, access to information and that the Ghana Right to Information Bill, 2010 seeks to serve this purpose.
Article 1(1) of Ghana?s 1992 Constitution states that ?the sovereignty of Ghana resides in the people of Ghana in whose name and for whose welfare the powers of government are to be exercised.
This principle is affirmed by article 21(1) (f) of the same Constitution which guarantees every person the right to information as a fundamental human right, subject to such qualifications and laws as are necessary in a democratic society.
Ms Mensah, therefore, urged the Parliamentary Committee to make use of its regional consultations reports to amend the bill to a level that would match international best practices and human right standards.
She said the current form of the bill did not meet international standards therefore the Select Joint Committee on Communications and Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs must speed up efforts to get the bill in tune with international standards.
She said upon request by the committee for technical advice, the RTI Coalition Ghana developed a Draft involving specific amendments on those issues for its consideration.
Ms Mensah said the RTI Bill was first laid before Parliament on February 5, 2010, but it was only in July-August 2011 that the Joint Committee held its regional consultations to collect the views of the Ghanaian public on the Bill.
?It is significant to note that to date the Joint Committee has been unable to produce a report on its regional consultations and this is holding back the processes leading to the passage of the Bill into law? she said.
Ms Mensah added that despite several requests by the Coalition to the Joint Committee to inform it of their findings on the regional consultations or the Zero Draft, no documents had been provided.
?During the regional tours, people raised issues during the collation of the information, the bill has to be amended, its current form does not meet international standard?.
She said the coalition would, however, not be daunted by delay of the joint committee to engage both new and old members of parliament and the grassroots to appreciate the relevance of the bill passing into law.