Access to information to be extended to private institutions— RTI Commission

BY: Emmanuel Ebo Hawkson
Mr Yaw Sarpong Boateng — Executive Secretary of the Commission
Mr Yaw Sarpong Boateng — Executive Secretary of the Commission

The Right to Information (RTI) Commission has said it will extend access to information to include some private institutions in the country.

The Executive Secretary of the commission, Mr Yaw Sarpong Boateng, told the Daily Graphic last Friday that a draft legislative instrument (LI) was currently being worked on to be laid before Parliament to that effect.

“There will be a legislative instrument (LI) and some level of private institutions will be incorporated in the LI to allow people to access information from those institutions,” he added.

Mr Boateng, however, did not give timelines on when the LI would be ready, saying it was work in progress.

Under the Right to Information Act, 2019 (Act 989), people’s right to access information is limited to public institutions.

Section 83 (2) of Act 989, however, allows the Minister of Information, in consultation with the RTI Commission by LI, to extend the application of the law to the private sector.

Per Section 83 (3) of Act 989, the LI shall specify the provisions of Act 989 which shall apply to the private sector, the type of information to be accessed and the exempt information that cannot be accessed by the public.

Rationale

Mr Boateng explained that private institutions that would fall within the ambit of the RTI Act would include those that perform public functions or engage public institutions to perform functions.

“The rationale behind this is to improve access to information and make the whole system as transparent as possible. That is what the law anticipates, not by us. This is a dictate of the law and we are complying accordingly,” he said.

According to him, the LI would also clarify and smoothen processes and provisions in Act 989 which were not very clear.

Challenges

Mr Boateng said the biggest challenge currently facing the commission was the lack of appreciation of the RTI Act by some people, including public officers who were mandated to aid people to access information.

He said many people did not realise it was their constitutional right to have access to certain information, in accordance with the law, while some public officials and institutions did not also understand or seem to appreciate the need to allow people to access to information.

“The challenge now is education. People do not really know what this Right to Information Act is about. We are, therefore, taking advantage of every medium to try and engage the public and explain their rights and how they can access information,” he said.

He, however, reminded the people that per the RTI Law, some information could not be disclosed.

RTI law

The RTI Act was passed in 2019 to operationalise Article 21 (1) (f) of the 1992 Constitution, which stipulates that “all persons shall have the right to information, subject to such qualifications and laws as are necessary in a democratic society”.

The law gives people the right to access all sorts of information, apart from exempt information.

Per the law, exempt information includes information on the President or the Vice-President, information relating to the Cabinet, law enforcement and public safety, international relations, the economy or any other interest.

Other exempt information includes internal workings of public institutions, privileged information and personal information.

Per the RTI Act, the RTI Commission has the mandate to promote, monitor, protect and enforce the right to information granted the people under Article 21 (1) (f) of the 1992 Constitution.

People denied access to information or who are dissatisfied with the process to access information can file complaints with the commission, and the commission has the power to make a determination on the complaints.

The law states that any party aggrieved by the decision of the commission has the right to file an application at the High Court for redress.

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