'Buts, ifs, maybes' continue as RTI bill misses gov't business list in Parliament

Source: Ghana|myjoyonline.com|Edwin Appiah|edwin.appiah@myjoyonline.com
Date: 15th-may-2018 Time:  2:04:33 pm

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So close to passage in 2016 but yet so far, Parliament has reconvened for another session but with no immediate plan to pass the 13-year-old Right To Information (RTI) bill, billed to help fight corruption.

The Bill is now on a tour of some regional capitals for what a joint committee of Parliament says is more 'stakeholder consultation.'

One such stakeholder, the RTI Coalition, has staked the Akufo-Addo's integrity on the passage of the bill.

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Photo: Civil Society Organisations met with the president to press home the need to pass the RTI bill

The bill was drafted in 1999, reviewed in 2003, 2005 and 2007 but was not presented to Parliament until 2010. 

Since the bill was introduced to Parliament on February 5, 2010, Parliament has talked, debated, vowed, referred it, moved it - anything except pass the aging bill. 

It has survived three Speakers and three Parliaments and counting.

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In a debate on the bill in Parliament in May 2016, the very first clause in the bill, which has seen more than 1,000 amendments, divided parliament.

Much media pressure was brought to bear on the government after the President made a March 6 promise to lay the bill before the House went on Easter recess.

The promise triggered a media blitz on Parliament and on the presidency to have the bill laid before the March 23 break.

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The sustained pressure failed as the bill could not break into the list of government business in Parliament.

The government explained the President's promise is to pass the bill before the end of the year not the end of a meeting of Parliament.

But as the next session of Parliament has began, new pressure is building for the legislature and the executive arms of government to execute the job.

"It is my hope and prayer that it will see the light of day," Minority Chief Whip Muntaka Mohammed told Joy News' parliamentary correspondent Elton Brobby.

But he soon went into giving several ifs and buts when the journalist asked for a timeline. 

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He said the Legal and Constitutional Committee of Parliament has held stakeholder meetings in Accra and last week went further away from Parliament to hold another in Koforidua, the Eastern regional capital.

The committee would have to return and if satisfied with their meetings, prepare a report on the bill which will be brought to Parliament.

The bill may then be laid before the chamber to trigger another familiar round of legislative rigmarole.

If the committee decides to go more rounds of 'stakeholdering,' a timeline for laying the bill may become even more distant.

"If you are not done with your public hearings it will be difficult to know when it will be laid before the floor," the NDC MP told Joy News.

And so the if, buts, and most likely, maybe, continued in what some say are signs of the government whose hold on passing the bill is growing cold despite the President's bold rhetoric.

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