RTI Bill to be passed under Certificate of Urgency

The revised Right to Information (RTI) Bill, 2016, which seeks to ensure transparency and accountability in governance, is to be passed under a Certificate of Urgency in Parliament.

This means that a swift process will be activated by the House to ensure that the bill is considered and passed within a period as short as one day.

The revised bill was taken through the second reading in the House yesterday.

The bill seeks to operationalise Article 21 (1) (f) of the constitution, which states that “all persons have the right to information subject to such qualifications and laws as are necessary in a democratic society”.

The bill will afford the pubic the opportunity to partake in policy formulation and other decision making processes. It will also empower citizens to hold public institutions accountable for their actions and inactions to ensure that their interest is protected while ensuring that corruption is reduced to its barest minimum.

The right to information is recognised by the United Nations (UN), the Commonwealth and the African Union as a fundamental human right necessary for good governance.

Cognisance of the international conventions and treaties on human rights and in order to operationalise the constitutional provision, an RTI bill was drafted by the government in 1999.

The draft was reviewed in 2003, 2005, and 2007, but was never presented to Parliament for passage.

However, on February 5, 2010, an RTI bill was presented to the Fifth Parlaiment and referred to the Joint Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and Communications for consideration and report.

The joint committee consulted extensively with major stakeholders across the country but consideration of the bill was not finalised before the Parliament’s term ended.

The bill was again presented to Parliament on Tuesday November 12, 2013 and referred to the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs for consideration and report.

The committee, during the consideration of the bill, received memoranda from the Forum for Former Members of Parliament, the Coalition on the Right to Information, Ghana, and the Office of the National Chief Imam and the Muslim community Ghana.

Other institutions such as the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI, Africa Office), the Perfector of Sentiments Foundation (POS) and Persons with Disability Ghana also presented memoranda on the RTI bill to the committee.

The committee presented its report to the House in December 2014 and read for the second time in July 2015.

Consideration of the bill, which began on Wednesday March 9, 2016, was tedious and time consuming due to the numerous amendments proposed by both the committee and individual members.

Due to the exigencies of the House and the need to expedite action, the bill was withdrawn and a new one re-introduced in Parliament on Tuesday October 18, 2016.

It was again referred to the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs for consideration and report in accordance with the standing orders of the House.

The new bill has incorporated all the amendments adopted by the House and those which were yet to be considered by the House.

In addition, some of the provisions contained in the one that was withdrawn have been reviewed in the new one.

According to a report by the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs on the revised bill, the scope of access to information was not limited to only public institutions.

“The bill grants access to information in the custody of private entities, particularly if the disclosure is in the public interest. Thus, private entities that perform public functions with public funds are obliged to disclose information unless that information is exempt,” it said.

According to the committee, in modern governance, non-state actors influenced the destinies of millions of people and hence, the necessity to extend the coverage to private bodies.

The committee has recommended to the House that the bill should be passed under a certificate of urgency.

By Yaw Kyei

 

 

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