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Submit RTI implementation plan by March 2022- Commission directs public institutions

BY: Emmanuel Adu-Gyamerah
Mr Yaw Sarpong,  Executive Secretary of the RTI Commission
Mr Yaw Sarpong, Executive Secretary of the RTI Commission

All PUBLIC institutions are expected to submit reports on how they have implemented the Right to Information (RTI) Act to the Right to Information Commission (RTIC) by March 2, 2022, the Executive Secretary of the commission, Mr Yaw Sarpong Boateng, has announced.

According to him, Section 77 of the law compelled public institutions to ,submit written reports on how their institutions had implemented the law during the preceding year to the commission within 60 days after December 31 of each year.

The report, according to Mr Sarpong, shall include the number of applications approved and rejected, together with the reasons for rejection; the number of reviews requested, granted and dismissed, as well as the number of applications sent to court for judicial review and the results of the reviews, if any.

He was speaking at a public forum organised by the commission in Goaso, the capital of the Ahafo Region, to educate heads of departments and agencies on their responsibilities under the RTI Act, 2019 (Act 989) last Monday.

Mr Sarpong explained that the commission had powers to levy administrative penalties, “but we are trying as much as possible not to be doing so, so we encourage the compliance of the law, so that we do not have to impose penalties”.

Powers of prosecution

According to him, the RTIC had already held talks with the Attorney-General on the need for it to be granted prosecutorial powers to enable it to prosecute offenders of the act.

“In our discussions with the Attorney-General, he expressed the fact that he was willing to let us have the power to prosecute RTI offences and we will be happy to do so,” he said.

Mr Sarpong said so far, the commission had been able to sit on 20 complaints, saying it was in the process of putting out its decisions.

On whether the RTI Act made it mandatory for chiefs to be accountable to the people, he said to the extent that chiefs might receive public resources and their offices might fall into public institutions, they had to be transparent and be accountable under the RTI Act.

“What this law seeks to achieve is transparency, and that is what we all should be aiming at,” he said, adding that the commission would soon meet with the National House of Chiefs and the regional houses of chiefs to educate their members on the provisions of the act.

On the implementation of the RTI Act, he said it was unfortunate that majority of the people who pushed for its passage had gone to sleep, and encouraged all Ghanaians to make use of the law to ensure the growth of accountability and transparency.

Mr Sarpong said it was the duty of the commission to reach out to all Ghanaians as part of its strategies to get them informed about the act to enable them to appreciate what the law was about and how to apply its provisions.

For his part, a Board Member of the RTIC, Mr David Oppong-Kusi, urged public institutions to employ information officers or train a member of staff to be able to process and keep information to enable them to be able to provide that information for any applicant.

“You need to elevate the information systems in your establishments in order not to be found wanting when the need arises. That is why you have to make a provision in your annual budgets in order to avoid the situation where you will say there is no budget line for this.

“Be RTI ready, have a trained information officer, as well as the necessary equipment and infrastructure, to enable you to easily comply with the provisions of this act,” he said.

In an address read on his behalf, the Ahafo Regional Minister, Mr George Boakye, called on public office holders to take pains to search out for their responsibilities and roles to know how to contribute effectively to the implementation of the RTI Act.