20 File complaints over RTI responses

BY: Vincent Amenuveve
Mr Yaw Sarpong Boateng — Executive Secretary, RTI
Mr Yaw Sarpong Boateng — Executive Secretary, RTI

The Right to Information (RTI) Commission has over the past one year received 20 complaints from people dissatisfied with the responses by public institutions to applications for information.

The Executive Secretary of the commission, Mr Yaw Sarpong Boateng, who made this known in Accra last Tuesday on the sidelines of a sensitisation programme on the RTI Act, Act 989, however, declined to give details of the complaints.

“We want to thrive on the positives of the implementation of the law rather than the drawbacks," he stated.

Mr Boateng, however, encouraged the public not to shy away from lodging complaints with the commission.

He further indicated that the implementation of the RTI had so far been encouraging, saying so far, 500 information officers had been recruited in relevant public institutions.

“It is now easier for information officers to access information unlike in the past when they had to depend on information from the archives,” Mr Sarpong noted.

The 45 participants were mainly from the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations, which organised the event in collaboration with the European Union Technical Assistant Team.

Expansion

Mr Sarpong said the commission hoped to expand its operations by opening its offices in the regions and districts to complement the commission's head office at Airport West in Accra.

He said even before the regional and district offices were established, the commission had introduced e-mail and online address systems to receive complaints from the public.

He disclosed that the sources of funds for the RTI Commission were from donations, grants, government approved budgets and administrative penalties from public institutions.

The executive secretary stated that there were key requirements of public institutions under the law, and that failure to give out information — which was not prohibited under the law — as requested attracted a punishment of between six months and three years of a jail term or a fine, and in some cases both a fine and a jail term.

ISD

The Deputy Chief Information Officer of the Information Services Department (ISD), Dr Winnifred Nafisa Mahama, said as long as access to information was acknowledged as a right, every effort must be made to promote and enforce the implementation of the RTI Act in public institutions.

These efforts, she noted, must focus on educating everyone, particularly public officials who were responsible for facilitating access to information.

“This is why the Access to Information Division of the Ministry of Information collaborates with the RTI Commission to conduct sensitisation campaigns to ensure that public institutions are adequately prepared and ready to deliver satisfactorily on their obligations under Act 989,” she stated.

The Head of Legal, Governance, Regulatory and Research of the RTI Commission, Mr Stephen Owusu, entreated relevant public institutions to abide by the provisions in the RTI Act to enable them to avoid the administrative penalties.

Overview/exemptions

A facilitator at the event and Principal Information Officer at the Ministry of Information, Mr Zuberu Aliu, said exemptions under the RTI law included application for information that affected national security, trade secrets of the country, economic information of third parties and information that affected the financial system of the country.

He, however, said they were not absolute because information ceased to be under exemptions after 30 years.