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Health Ministry sets up Information Unit; First public institution to meet RTI provision

BY: Doreen Andoh
Health Ministry sets up Information Unit; First public institution to meet RTI provision
Health Ministry sets up Information Unit; First public institution to meet RTI provision

The Ministry of Health has inaugurated an Information Unit in compliance with the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2019, (Act 989).

Being the first public institution to set up the information unit, the ministry has also launched its public information manual, also the first agency to do so.

This RTI manual seeks to make available all information regarding the procedure and information available for access within the ministry and its agencies.

An information officer has been assigned to the unit as required by Act 989.

Applauds

The Ministry of Information and the Right to Information Commission have applauded the MoH for being the first public institution to do that.

At the launch of the public information manual and the information unit at the ministry in Accra last Friday, the MoH and the RTI Commission reiterated calls to all public institutions to comply with the law.

The two oversight institutions said although some public agencies and institutions were receiving information requests without their information units, officers and manuals, compliance with the Act was mandatory and would also enhance the implementation of the law.

The Minister of Information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, said by the law, all applications for information were supposed to be responded to by the Information Officer, making their absence an offence punishable under the law.

In a speech read on his behalf by the Head of Access to Information Division of the Information Services Department, Dr Winnifred Nafisa Mahama, the minister said the law made access to information that was not classified as exempt easier in the delivery of the right to information under the 1992 Constitution.

The minister said it also, among others, encouraged participatory democratic decisions; ensured transparent and open governance, accountability and checked corruption.

The minister said the step by the MoH was a demonstration of its resolve to run an open, transparent, and accountable administration that gave access to the public to seek information from the ministry.

“Certainly, this will entrench democracy and, as much as possible, nip corruption in the bud. I applaud the Ministry of Health in its efforts to enhance access to information by setting up its information unit from which access to information will be processed, as required by the RTI law,” the minister said.

“Act 989 also requires annual compilation and publication of information manuals by public institutions. The manuals are to be made public and easily accessible to the general public. I am thrilled by the medium the Ministry of Health has adopted to announce the publication of its information manual,” Mr Oppong Nkrumah said.

The minister urged information officers to abide by the principle of proactiveness and serve the applicants with all diligence and timeliness.

Human right

A Deputy Minister of Health, Tina Gifty Naa Ayeley Mensah, said access to information was a fundamental human right that facilitated transparency and accountability.

She said transparency was essential to building trust in the relationship between the state and society.

“Gone are the days when access to information was very difficult, now there is a beautiful dawn that has given light to access information,” she stated.

“The release of government information has traditionally been treated with great care. A lot of information is perceived as confidential information simply on the notion that it is a ‘government document’,” Ms Mensah said.

The Deputy Minister of Health urged all stakeholders to play their role effectively to enhance the implementation of the law and deliver a more inclusive society able to hold state institutions to account.

The Head of Legal, Governance, Regulatory and Research of the RTI Commission, Stephen Owusu, said anyone who applied for information from a public institution was not required to provide a reason unless the applicant requested that the application be treated as urgent.

He lauded the MoH for making a conscious effort to put up an RTI unit and release the manual which would promote transparency and accountability.

“Corruption only thrives in secrecy and the RTI will promote transparency and accountability,” Mr Owusu stated.

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