The Minority in Parliament last Friday kicked against a proposed transitional provision to delay the implementation of the Right to Information Bill (RTI) for a year when it is passed.
The New Patriotic Party (NPP) MP for Suhum, Mr Frederick Opare-Andah, proposed the amendment that the RTI 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.
But the Minority Members of Parliament (MPs) said the media, civil society organisations and many Ghanaians had 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 had information officers and information system to release information to the public.
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The National Democratic Congress (NDC) MP for Tamale Central, Alhaji Inusah Abdulai Fuseini; the NDC MP for Wa West, Mr Joseph Yieleh-Chireh, and the NDC MP for Bawku Central, Mr Mahama Ayariga, therefore, asked the House to reject the transitional provision.
Consequently, the Speaker of Parliament, Professor Aaron Michael Oquaye, ruled that the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Ms Gloria Akuffo, should inform Parliament, in writing or person, on Tuesday, February 5, 2019, as to whether the government was ready to implement an RTI law immediately or after a specified period.
He said laws did not take retrospective effect but they could take futuristic effect.
Therefore, Prof. Oquaye said it was crucial to hear from the Executive to know whether it had the capacity to enforce an RTI law immediately or not.
In an interview with the Daily Graphic, the NPP MP of Offinso South constituency and Chairman of the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Ben Abdallah Banda, defended the proposal for the suspension of the implementation of the RTI law.
He said government institutions needed time to engage qualified information officers and set up information offices to allow the public to access information easily.
The object of the RTI Bill is to provide for the operationalisation 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 this year (2018) by the Deputy Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mr Joseph Dindiok.
The RTI Bill has passed through the first and second readings and the House is almost done with the consideration of proposed amendments tothe Bill after which it will be passed in to law.