Leaders and managers all over the world believe in the saying: What gets measured gets done. In other words, what never gets measured never gets done.
It is against this backdrop that the Right to Information Act, 2019 (Act 989) promises to be a living document.
The Act of Parliament has inherently prescribed processes and procedures for ensuring its effective implementation and administration.
The following measures are proposed to make the RTI Act the living document/policy it ought to be:
• Creating an information society (i.e. promotion RTI awareness – Article 45);
• Deploying an Information Request Acknowledgment System (to support communication of decisions on information requested — Article 23; to support the preparation of annual reports by public institutions as required under Article 77; to provide a means by which the Right to Information Commission can independently verify or monitor activities of public institutions or relevant private body under the Act as captured under Article 47, and to support the work of the RTI Secretariat);
• Conducting surveys intermittently to support the function of the Right to Information Commission (Article 46) and assessing compliance with RTI performance measures (Article 47).
Creating information society
What is an information society? Knowledge Kinetics Organisation (2KO), an NGO with a vision to become and remain a strategic partner in Ghana’s quest to become a knowledge society, has propounded an Information Society Concept for Ghana.
It is summarised thus: every Ghanaian has unfettered access to information. For 2KO, the promulgation of the RTI Act and a giant step towards creating that information society.
Every public institution must not only house an Information Officer, it must also create the needed awareness of citizens’ right to access information as and when required under the RTI Act.
Ghana becoming an information society (with the view to positioning the average Ghanaian to enjoy better public services) will be given a big boost if all public institutions are compelled to publish their Client Service Charters and broadcast same over the print and electronic media both in English and in the local languages.
Knowledge Kinetics Organisation (2KO) advocates a simple, user-friendly, and web-based application that will record all RTI requests.
Developed by a Ghanaian software developer, the system, known as Information Request Acknowledgment System (IRAS-1.0), is scalable to accommodate as many public institutions and relevant private bodies charged under the RTI Act.
The system enables public institutions to acknowledge all requests for information in the form of a text message detailing adequate information to guide the recipient as to when the information request will be delivered.
With the capability to help all institutions meet their obligations under the RTI, this simple, cost-effective system will be required by all public institutions if the RTI Act is to become and remain effective and to promote social development.
The Right to Information Commission with the support of the Ministry of Information should conduct intermittent surveys to gather information on citizens’ satisfaction with information request services.
The data collected can also feed into a diagnostic assessment tool to determine whether public institutions are processing requested information expeditiously and communicating their decisions promptly to information applicants, and ultimately complying with requirements under the RTI Act.
The system does not come with development costs.
User agencies (public institutions) will be charged annually at a rate of GH¢4, 000, in respect of maintenance (GH¢2, 000) and licensing (GH¢2, 000).
Where a user agency wants to extend the use of the system beyond information request (i.e. acknowledging other interactions with their clients and the citizenry), additional GH¢1,000 shall be charged.
According to Professor Stephen Adei of Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration fame, leadership is everything and all others are effect. The deployment of IRAS-1.0 in public institutions to institutionalise the implementation of the RTI Act will be a bold leadership decision.
The Information Ministry, the sector ministry in charge of the implementation of the RTI Act, has trained and assigned Information Officers to Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs).
To deliver to the citizenry and the private sector, the sector minister must support MDAs and MMDAs to acquire and introduce IRAS-1.0 failing which the Right to Information (RTI) Act will have come out of Parliament with high prospects, but will not be as successful as its counterpart in India.