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A-G empowers RTI Commission to prosecute offenders

BY: Vincent Amenuveve
  Mr Godfred Yeboah Dame, the Attorney-General (A-G) and Minister of Justice.
Mr Godfred Yeboah Dame, the Attorney-General (A-G) and Minister of Justice.

The Right to Information (RTI) Commission has secured a fiat — a formal authorisation — from the Office of the Attorney-General (AG) and Minister of Justice to prosecute offences under the RTI Law.

In that regard, the Director of Public Prosecutions will train staff of the commission on prosecution under the RTI Act, 2019 (Act 989) by the close of September this year.

The Executive Secretary of the RTI Commission, Yaw Sarpong Boateng, made this known at a forum on civil society reflections on the implementation of the RTI Law in Accra yesterday.

He said such a measure would ensure the speedy prosecution of offenders and thereby give meaning to the implementation of the law.

It would also help offload some prosecution duties off the A-G regarding offences under the law, he said.

Forum

The forum was organised under the Rebuilding Civic Space Project of the STAR Ghana Foundation (SGF), in partnership with the Ghana Developing Communities Association (GDCA) and the Ghana Friends (GV), both non-governmental organisations.

It was aimed at, among other objectives, strengthening civil society awareness of the implementation of the RTI Law and its challenges and mobilising support to promote public accountability.

Mr Boateng disclosed that the commission was currently working fervently with the Ministry of Information to put before Parliament a draft Legislative Instrument to further strengthen the operationalisation of Act 989.

He said a committee was currently considering the proposed draft regulations which should be ready for submission to the A-G’s Office soon.

He further explained that a series of stakeholder engagements would be undertaken to receive inputs from a broad section of the public.

Already, the RTI Coalition, through the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), has submitted inputs for consideration and inclusion.

Guidelines

Mr Boateng indicated that the commission, in line with its mandate, had issued out guidelines to about 600 institutions on the publication of information manuals by public institutions and relevant private bodies.

That, he said, was to ensure that public institutions published information and maintained up-to-date information manuals, as required by the law.

Currently, about 291 public institutions had published their information manuals, Mr Boateng added.

“In the same vein, and in the spirit of proactive disclosure, public institutions are mandated to compile and publish annually manuals containing up-to-date information which should conform with guidelines set by the commission," he pointed out.

The executive secretary further reminded public institutions that “practising proactive disclosure of information will serve as an arsenal to check corruption and promote answerability to the public".

Annual report

Giving some details in the commission's 2021 Annual Report, Mr Boateng said 189 public institutions submitted reports to the commission, in accordance with Section 77 of Act 989.

Out of that, he said, 65 institutions received requests for information, with the Department of Children receiving 34, the highest number of requests for information.

Furthermore, 159 out of 247 information requests received by 65 public institutions, which translated into 64 per cent of requests for information, were approved outrightly, he added.

Seven requests were rejected outright, with the remainder being transfer of applications, internal review requests, among others, he said.

The executive secretary said the commission itself received 24 applications for review, out of which six written determinations were made and eight settled through mediation, with the rest pending at various stages.

According to the commission's report, the main reasons given for the application reviews were refusal of a public institution to respond to request for information, denial of applications for request of access to information and dissatisfaction with responses received by applicants.

Panel discussions

As part of the forum, a panel discussion was held on access to information in the context of the implementation of the RTI Law.

A Research Associate at the School of Journalism and Media Studies of the Rhodes University in South Africa, Dr Theodora Dame Adjin-Tettey, presented a paper on assessing access to information.

Dr Adjin-Tettey, who is also a Lecturer at the Department of Communication Studies of the University of Ghana, Legon, suggested, among other things, that for the implementation of the law to be more effective, there must be the widening of awareness levels to include those in the districts and other remote parts of the country.

The discussants were the Executive Director of the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), Sulemana Braimah; the Programmes Manager of CHRI, Esther Poku-Aduhene; Mr Boateng and Dr Adjin-Tettey.