The Ministry of Health (MOH) has become the first public institution to set up a Right to Information Unit (RTI) to improve access to information and public accountability.
The establishment of the unit is in line with the Right to Information Act, 2019 (Act 989), that provides for the implementation of the constitutional right of persons to access official information held by public institutions (and relevant private institutions that receive public resources or perform public functions), subject to exemptions that are necessary and consistent with the protection of public interest in Ghana.
Section three of the Act enjoins all public institutions to set up RTI units to facilitate transparency and access to information by the public and also directs that, public institutions compile up-to-date information manual, each year.
Launching the unit in Accra on Friday, a Deputy Minister of Health, Tina Naa Ayeley Mensah, said the establishment of the RTI Unit was “a turning point” in advancing open and transparent governance in the country.
“Gone are the days when access to information was very difficult. Now, there is a beautiful dawn that has given light to access to information.
The releasing of government information has traditionally been treated with great care. A lot of information is perceived as confidential information simply on the notion that it is a ‘government document’. Information has been very expensive and vital,” she noted.
The Deputy Minister said the RTI law imposed a duty on all public officials to be efficient in the discharge of their duties and use of state resources in order to be answerable to the public.
“For the law to be implemented, all officials who work at public organisations need to be committed to the Act because they are the ones who will create and manage the information that the public will be requesting.
If they don’t understand their duties properly or if they are not committed to implementing the law, then its effective operation will become more difficult and the government can incur liabilities,” she stated.
The Head of Legal, Governance, Regulatory, and Research at the RTI Commission, Mr Stephen Owusu, applauded the MOH for becoming the first public institution to set up an RTI Unit and urged other institutions to emulate the example.
He said the 1992 Constitution guaranteed every citizen the right to access information, as a key component to advancing democracy.
According to Mr Owusu applicants demanding information under the RTI Act were not mandated to state the reason for applying for a particular information unless that information is exempt.
“The only time the institution can demand for reasons is when the applicant says the information is urgently needed,” he noted.
For her part, the Head of Access to Information Division of the Information Services Department, Dr Winnifred Nafisa Mahama, charged RTI officers to be proactive, serve applicants diligently and in a timely manner.
BY ABIGAIL ANNOH