The Right to Information (RTI) Coalition, Ghana notes, with utmost disappointment, the latest in the litany of promises and pledges made by officials of government relative to the passage of the Right to Information Bill into Law in Ghana.
The Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Hon. Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu, who doubles as the Majority Leader in Parliament, is reported to have proposed a new timetable for the passage of the RTI Bill, whilst speaking at a training session for Journalists in Parliament on November 1 2017, stating that Parliament would finish work on the Bill by July, 2018 in the next session of Parliament – ““I want to believe that if we cross this meeting into the meeting of next year, I should think by the close of the second meeting, we should be in the position to have dealt with the RTI Bill”.
It is indeed strange to observe that a Bill which failed to get passed by the last Parliament, owing to the then Minority's, (who happen to be the current Majority) non-acceptance, did not get listed among the Bills submitted by the Executive in its first year in office, in spite of declarations of the recognition of its importance in governance.
The New Patriotic Party (NPP) Government which touts itself as champion in the promotion of citizens’ participation, transparency, accountability and the fight against corruption has surprisingly not been able to find time to discuss the RTI Bill which the Coalition is aware has been submitted to Cabinet since May for policy approval and approval to be laid in Parliament. The fact that Cabinet has not been able to find time to discuss the Bill as confirmed by the Minister for Information at the West Africa Media Excellence Conference and Awards (WAMECA) held in Accra on October 27, 2017 amidst all the assurances by Government speaks volumes.
It is observed regretfully that the continuing credibility deficit in government has been further heightened by the latest in the litany of promises and pledges which replaces the Minister for Information's pledge to pass the RTI Bill by the end of the year, 2017 when he said "as per the calendar we have sent to Parliament, it is in there that in the May to July, 2017 session of Parliament, the RTI Bill will be before them for debate and passage. It's non-negotiable”. That session began and ended with the RTI Bill conspicuously missing. His declaration never materialized, however, the Minister has not seen the need to account to the good people of this country on why government was unable to fulfill such a promise which according to him was ‘non-negotiable’. Yet the Minister without hesitation once again promised at WAMCA event “I pledge we would push to ensure the next Parliamentary sitting considers the RTI Bill”. Are Ghanaians expected to believe this pledge amidst the litany of unfulfilled promises?
In its 2016 Manifesto, the NPP pledged in Chapter 12 on Governance, Corruption and Accountability that in order to adopt legislative measures that will operationalize the relevant articles on corruption in the UN Convention Against Corruption, the NPP will inter alia do the following in respect of Legislative and other Reforms, Section IV (c) "ensure the passage of the RTI Bill if the present Parliament delays in doing so".
Against this background, on Thursday, February 2, 2017 the Vice President, Alhaji Dr. Mahamadu Bawumia promised at the Regional Meeting of Transparency International in Accra that government will facilitate the passage of the RTI Bill this year, 2017. This was followed by the May 3 non-negotiable declaration by the Minister for Information.
Subsequently, on Tuesday, July 25, 2017 at a media forum to launch the website of the Media Foundation for West Africa, the Minister for Information pledged that the RTI Bill will be passed before the end of the year, 2017.
Indeed, to top up the litany of failed promises with another that shifts passage to July, 2018 leaves much to be desired. We recall the President's September assurance that his government was committed to passing the RTI Bill into law "very soon" in a speech read on his behalf by Prof. George Gyan Baffour, Minister of State for Planning at the 2017 Concordia Summit, held on September 18 and 19 in New York, USA. "My government intends to pass the RTI Bill into law very soon. We know transparency protects officials and the public in dealing with the public purse. The public has the right to know what politicians are doing and the public officials do in their name".
Amidst the litany of unfulfilled pledges and promises, the RTI Coalition calls on President Nana Akufo-Addo to ensure that, at the very least, the Executive gets the RTI Bill to Parliament before the end of the year, 2017 towards operationalizing Article 21(1) (f) of the Constitution of Ghana.
ISSUED BY THE COALITION ON THE RIGHT TO INFORMATION, GHANA, ACCRA, NOVEMBER 6, 2017