Right to Information Bill must be passed now

BY: Daily Graphic
Right to Information Bill must be passed now
Right to Information Bill must be passed now

Many years down the lane, Ghana is still struggling to pass the Right to Information (RTI) Bill. This bill, which will ensure enhanced transparency in the governance process, has remained on the drawing board and all efforts to get it passed into law continue to be a mirage.

The right to information is a fundamental human right guaranteed by the country’s 1992 Constitution and recognised as a right under international conventions on human rights.

The bill, when passed, will give substance to Article 21 (1) (f) of the Constitution which states: “All persons shall have the right to information subject to such qualifications and laws as are necessary in a democratic society.”

Clearly, the right to information has been provided for by the Constitution, but how to access that vital information has become the albatross hanging on the nation’s neck.

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It will be recalled that during the latter stages of last year, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) government appeared poised to pass the bill, but, somehow, strangely, the whole move fizzled into thin air. Earlier governments too had  expressed their intentions to pass the bill but to no avail.

The Daily Graphic thinks that our inability to pass this all-important bill into law is, to say the least, very worrying. This is because it is not only members of the media fraternity who will gain so much with its passage but the entire Ghanaian society.

The bill, when passed, will embolden Ghanaians to hold their leaders, especially the government, to be accountable.

It will also provide access to official information held by public institutions and private entities which perform public functions with public funds.

It is, therefore, gratifying that our President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, while delivering the keynote address yesterday at the 2017 Africa Open Data Conference which is currently ongoing at the Accra International Conference Centre, stressed the resolve of his government to speed up the passage of the long overdue RTI Bill by Parliament.

According to the President, if African leaders were to succeed in improving the living standards of their peoples, a critical piece of the puzzle had to be the availability and use of information and data.

Ghana can no longer delay for a moment in passing this bill if we are to maintain our global status as a democratically free society ready to entrench democratic principles in the governance process.

In line with this, the 7th Parliament of the Fourth Republic must not fail the nation by passing the Bill this year to deepen democratic accountability and curb corruption, real or perceived, from the body politic.

It is equally important for all stakeholders, including civil society organisations, to support and work to facilitate the passage of the bill this year.

The President, as he has promised, must be given the necessary support and push to ensure the speedy passage of the bill, which was drafted in 1999 and reviewed in 2003, 2005 and 2007 but was not presented to Parliament till 2010.

The Daily Graphic believes the time is simply ripe for this all-important piece of legislation to be passed. We cannot delay a day further.