PARLIAMENT AND THE RTI BILL

News that the Right to Information Bill has been replaced must be a surprise to all, especially those interested in its passage.

It is especially so because the Majority Leader, Alban Bagbin, had last week, given the firm assurance that Parliament would, certainly, pass the bill into law before the end of this year.

That pledge had raised high the hopes of all stakeholders that their efforts would finally come to fruition, more so when the President of the nation had earlier also stated his commitment to having the bill passed.

The Bill seeks to, among other things, give the public the right to access information from the government and other public institutions.

The Right to Information, also known as Freedom of Information, is an internationally recognized fundamental human right based on the principle that in a democracy, the sovereignty of a nation lies in the hands of the people in whose name, and on whose behalf the government exercises power.

Indeed, this is enshrined in Ghana’s Constitution. Article 1 (1) of the constitution categorically states, ‘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.’

Article 21 (1) (f) also affirms the principle, granting ‘all persons the right to information, subject to such qualifications and laws as are necessary in a democratic society’.

It is worth noting that the African Union has also passed a resolution which enjoins all member states to pass legislation on the Right to Information to suit their specific needs.

It was in furtherance of this constitutional requirement that various groups had since 2002, been agitating for the passage of this bill.

It has gone through various stages of approval in previous parliaments, but none had managed to pass it into law.

The original document had seen close to 1,000 amendments, but still encountered setbacks.

That is the reason why many may feel disappointed at the Majority Leader’s announcement on Tuesday, of the withdrawal of the bill to be replaced by a new one.

Although we agree with his statement that it is necessary for the bill to take into account all the concerns raised by members and other stakeholders, it is wondered why they had to wait until now.

We hope that this time, the new document would not be delayed, unduly.  For, the Right to Information is fundamental to the realization of economic and social rights, as well as civil and political rights.

It lays the foundation upon which to build good governance, transparency, accountability and check arbitrariness and corruption in public life.

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