Over 200 MPs abandon RTI Bill - Media Coalition

BY: Graphic Online
Speaker of Parliament, Prof Aaron Mike Ocquaye
Speaker of Parliament, Prof Aaron Mike Ocquaye

The Media Coalition on Right to Information (RTI) and the RTI Coalition have expressed concern about the "lackadaisical attitude of Members of Parliament (MPs) towards the RTI Bill."

Last week Parliament for the second time in five sitting days suspended the consideration of the Right to Information (RTI) Bill for lack of a quorum.

Useful links Ghana Politics | Ghana Celebrity News | News in Ghana

Coincidentally, it was the same legislator, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member of Parliament (MP) for Adansi Asokwa, Mr Kobina Tahiru Hammond, who raised the issue of the quorum.

He said the House did not have a quorum to continue the consideration of the Bill, which is supported by Standing Order 48 (2) and Article 102 of the 1992 Constitution.

Standing Order 48 (2) states: "If at the time of sitting, a member takes notice or objection that there are present in the House, besides the person presiding, less than one-third of the number of all the Members of Parliament, and after an interval of ten minutes a quorum is not present, the person presiding shall adjourn the House without question put until the next sitting day."


Ghana News Headlines

For today's latest Ghana news, visit Graphic Online headlines page Ghana news headlines.

Article 102 stipulates that: "A quorum of Parliament, apart from the one presiding, shall be one-third of all Members of Parliament."

The National Democratic Congress (NDC) MP for Ningo-Prampram, Mr Samuel Nartey George, supported the motion for the suspension of the consideration.

Giving his ruling, the Second Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Mr Alban Bagbin, who was chairing, said his hands were tied because the about 36 MPs did not form a quorum.

For current Ghana news | Ghana Business News | News in Ghana

He, therefore, suspended the consideration of the RTI Bill.

Related: Parliament suspends RTI Bill for the second time

Read also: House to pass RTI Bill by December - Majority Leader

Related: Right to Information Bill reaches consideration stage

Read also: RTI Bill cannot be passed now – Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu

Below is a copy of a statement the coalition issued on Monday on the RTI Bill

Over 200 MPs abandon RTI Bill

The Media Coalition on Right to Information (RTI) and the RTI Coalition have noticed the lackadaisical attitude of Members of Parliament (MPs) towards the RTI Bill.

In our view, this constitutes a deliberate strategy to once again frustrate the passage of the Bill into law.

Ever since Parliament returned from recess, over 200 Members of Parliament are consistently absent from the Chamber anytime the RTI Bill is up for consideration.

It is on record that only between 30 and 50 MPs are in the chamber anytime the RTI Bill is up for consideration in the past two weeks.

The New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member of Parliament (MP) for Adansi Asokwa, Kobina Tahiru Hammond, who has openly said that he is against the law has taken advantage of the situation to stop the House from considering the Bill by raising the issue of quorum.

He has found a strong ally in Samuel Nartey George, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) MP for Ningo-Prampram, who has also resorted to the quorum call to frustrate the consideration of the Bill.

A third of the 275 legislators, which stands at 92 are needed to form a quorum in the House.

In view of these negative developments, the Media Coalition on RTI petitioned the leadership of Parliament to adopt extended sittings to ensure that the Bill is passed before Parliament rises for the Christmas break.

To our surprise, the leadership of parliament has not considered our request necessary and therefore did not show any seriousness as usual.

There were only 2 days of extended sittings and both ended before 4PM.

We are minded by the fact that Parliament has sat on Monday’s, weekends and sometimes late into the night just to pass some laws in this country and to approve of loan agreements.

Therefore, the ongoing absenteeism anytime the RTI Bill is up for consideration is unacceptable.

This bad practice is giving credence to public suspicions that a high number of MPs are against the passage of the RTI Bill but do not want to openly say so.

At the beginning of the current meeting on October 30, 2018, the Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, gave the assurance that the House would pass the RTI Bill into law before it rises in December, 2018.

He actually said the leadership was committed to finishing work on the bill before November 15th, 2018 when the budget will be presented to the house.

It is sad that parliament is not worried that its Leader of Government Business has made promises to the people of Ghana but the actions of the House suggests that our MPs see themselves as lords over those who elected them and therefore can renege on their promises at will.

The RTI Bill has passed through the first and second readings and is at the consideration stage, with 138 amendments mostly substitution or deletion of words proposed to be considered by the House.

Background

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, Joseph Dindiok Kpemka.