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Make RTI work: MFWA urges public

BY: Augustina Tawiah
 Sulemana Braimah (left), Executive Director, Media Foundation for West Africa, speaking at the programme. With him are Sussanne Fucks-Mwakideu (2nd from left), Programmes Director, DW Akademie;  Dr Winifred Nafisa Mahama (2nd from right), Director, ATI Division, Ministry of Information, and Yaw Sarpong Boateng (right), Executive Secretary, RTI Commission. Picture: ERNEST KODZI
Sulemana Braimah (left), Executive Director, Media Foundation for West Africa, speaking at the programme. With him are Sussanne Fucks-Mwakideu (2nd from left), Programmes Director, DW Akademie; Dr Winifred Nafisa Mahama (2nd from right), Director, ATI Division, Ministry of Information, and Yaw Sarpong Boateng (right), Executive Secretary, RTI Commission. Picture: ERNEST KODZI

The Executive Director of the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), Sulemana Braimah, has said the passage of the Right to Information (RTI) Law was not meant to benefit only journalists but also all Ghanaians.

He has, accordingly, encouraged Ghanaians to educate themselves on the law, understand it better and vigorously use it to assert their right to information.

“Everyone in the country needs to understand the law and use it. We the people will make the law give us what we want to achieve — the aspirations of the law. People must first of all understand what the law says, what it guarantees them and how they can use it to demand information from the government, seek answers from public institutions, question loopholes that exist, as well as demand accountability for the utilisation of our resources,” he explained.

Mr Braimah said this at a two-day programme organised by the MFWA on enhancing citizens’ access to information through effective implementation of the RTI Law.

Countries that have RTI laws

Making reference to African countries such as Liberia, Guinea, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Togo that passed their RTI laws before Ghana did, Mr Braimah indicated that not much had changed in those countries in terms of governance, citizens’ participation and responsibility following the passage of the laws there.

“But Ghana has to be different. We cannot be deterred by developments in those countries. Collectively, we can make the RTI Law in Ghana work to make our experiences different from what other countries have experienced. Already, we have seen developments that give us hope.

We have seen journalists and other organisations making use of the law,” he said.

The MFWA Executive Director called for wider public campaigns and education on the law across the country, adding that limiting them to Accra, Takoradi and Kumasi would be disastrous for the law.

He said it was for that reason that the MFWA had expanded the scope of its interventions to the districts, explaining that it had empowered and resourced citizens groups from Ejura, Ada and Sagnerigu.

The purpose of the programme was to bring members of the groups together to share their experiences on accessing information at the metropolitan, municipal and district assembly (MMDA) levels and seek answers to what could be done to obtain information at those levels, he added.

Legislative Instrument on RTI

In his presentation, the Executive Secretary of the RTI Commission, Yaw Sarpong Boateng, mentioned some of the things the commission intended to do to include finalising the Legislative Instrument (LI) on the law and laying it before Parliament this year.

That, he explained, would go a long way to address the implementation challenges of the law.

He explained that the Attorney-General’s Office had granted the commission the waiver on court filing fees, pending ratification by the Finance Minister, and said that would go a long way to reduce the financial burden on the commission.

Online application

Sharing their experiences on accessing information at the MMDA level, some of the citizen groups mentioned the difficulties they went through to obtain information to include undue delays and refusal by officials of the MMDAs to provide them with the information requested.

In a statement, the Director of the Access to Information Division at the Ministry of Information, Dr Winifred Nafisa Mahama, said to further enhance the application process, the ministry, in consultation with the RTI Commission, was working to deploy an online record management system that was expected to allow applicants to apply for information online.

She explained that the process, which started in 2020, would also help information officers keep accurate records of information in public institutions to serve as a central resource centre for the commission.