Release information to public, it’s their right - RTI tells public officers
The Right to Information Commission (RTIC) has reiterated the need for public officers to release information requested by the people in compliance with the Right to Information Act, 2019, (Act 898).
The Board Chairman of the Commission, Justice Kweku Ofori Atta, said the right to information was a constitutional right which ought to be respected and upheld in line with the law.
“The RTI law set up under the RTI Act, 2019 (Act 898) was made for the public and we must make use of it,” he said at a public forum to sensitise people to the RTI at Wa in the Upper West Region last weekend.
Public officers, he said, did not have the luxury or option to refuse request for information so far as that information was not exempted from release as stipulated by Act 898.
“Public officers must understand that whatever information they have is for the public and as such cannot be withheld from them.
Any such action by any official should be reported to the commission for redress through their various portals that are in the public domain,” he said.
The participants in the forum were drawn from the public and private institutions, civil society organisations, students, traditional authorities and the media.
The forum was on the topic: “Your right to access information and the role of the RTI Commission under Act 989”.
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 include internal workings of public institutions, privileged information and personal information.
Per the RTI Act, the RTIC 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 it has the power to make a determination on the complaints, including imposing fines on public institutions that refuse to release requested information.
The law also states that any party aggrieved by the decision of the commission has the right to file an application at the High Court for redress.
In May this year, the Minister of Information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, revealed that the RTIC, since its establishment, had fined 14 public institutions a total of GH¢1.31 million penalty for refusing to comply with the commission’s orders to grant applicants access to information requested.
The institutions formed part of 26 review applications determined by the commission since its operationalisation in 2020.
Recently, the RTIC fined the Audit Service GH¢30,000 for failing to release information on the recruitment of 150 new employees as requested by private legal practitioner, Martin Kpebu.
Justice Ofori Atta said the RTI law aimed to weed out corruption and ensure transparency in society.
He gave examples of two cases involving information relating to the education sector which, through the intervention of the commission, led to the reversal of a decision to fail some students.
The Executive Secretary of the RTIC, Yaw Sarpong Boateng, gave an assurance that the commission was working on establishing offices in all the 16 regions to decentralise its operations and make it easier for people to enjoy their fundamental right to information.
He urged people not to be intimidated when requesting information from public institutions because it was their human rights and the commission was ever ready to uphold that right.
Mr Boateng said the commission would not hesitate to apply the sanctions prescribed by the law on any public institution that refused to comply with the dictates of the law in releasing information to applicants.
In a speech read on his behalf, the Upper West Regional Minister, Dr Hafiz Bin Salih, called on all stakeholders to work tirelessly for the successful implementation of the RTI Act.