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RTI Bill to be law on Tuesday

BY: Musah Yahaya Jafaru

Parliament is set to pass the Right to Information Bill (RTI) into law next Tuesday, March 26, 2019, after about two decades of waiting.

This follows the conclusion of the consideration of the bill on Friday.

The last amendment to the RTI Bill, which was proposed by the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member of Parliament (MP) for Okaikoi Central, Mr Patrick Yaw Boamah, changed the implementation ministry of the bill from the Attorney General and Ministry of Justice to the Ministry of Information.

After the adoption of the amendment, the Majority Leader, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu indicated that the RTI Bill would be read the third time and passed next Tuesday.

It is recalled that Parliament had earlier approved a motion to delay the implementation of the RTI Bill till January, 2020 after it is passed.

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The New Patriotic Party (NPP) MP for Suhum, Mr Frederick Opare-Ansah, had earlier proposed the amendment that the RTI Bill should come into force 12 months from the date on which the Act is assented to by the President.

He claimed that public institutions needed to be given time to engage information officers and establish information offices to facilitate the release of information to the public.

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But Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu reviewed the proposal to read that "This Act shall come into force at the beginning of the next financial year."

The Minority in Parliament kicked against the proposed transitional provision to delay the implementation of the Right to Information Bill (RTI) for a year.

The Minority MPs said the media, civil society organisations and many Ghanaians have waited for the passage and implementation of the RTI for years, and so it would be wrong to delay its implementation when it is passed.

They said government institutions already have information officers and information systems to release information to the public.

Background
The object of the RTI Bill is to provide for the operationalization of the constitutional right to information held by public and some private institutions, subject to exemptions that are necessary and consistent with the protection of public interest in a democratic society.

It also seeks to foster a culture of transparency and accountability in public affairs and to provide for related matters.

The RTI Bill was first drafted in 1999, reviewed in 2003, 2005 and 2007 but was only presented to Parliament in 2010. It was brought back to the Sixth Parliament but could not be passed till the expiration of that Parliament on January 6, 2016.

After months of waiting, the Bill was laid in Parliament early in 2018 by the Deputy Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mr Joseph Dindiok.