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Right to Information Bill reaches consideration stage

BY: Musah Yahaya Jafaru
Professor Mike Aaron Oquaye
Professor Mike Aaron Oquaye

Members of Parliament (MPs) began the consideration of the Right to Information (RTI) Bill 2018 last Wednesday.

They are expected to amend 91 clauses to the bill before its passage into law.

It is not clear whether the amendments can be completed for the bill to be passed into law before the House goes on recess on July 26, 2018.

Purpose

The object of the bill is to operationalise 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 other 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 by a Deputy Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mr Joseph Dindiok.

It has since gone through the first and second readings.

The Joint Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and Communications, which was tasked by the Speaker to consider the bill, has also presented its report.

The joint committee recommended to the House to pass the bill in accordance with Article 106 of the 1992 Constitution.

MPs from the Majority and the Minority sides made contributions supporting the passage of the bill.

Committee's report

Reading the report, the Chairman of the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Mr Ben Abdallah Banda, said the joint committee acknowledged the importance of access to information from public and some private institutions in ensuring transparency and accountability and contributing to the fight against corruption in the country.

He said the committee critically examined the bill and "is of the view that its passage will establish a robust legal framework that will guide the public in accessing information from the public and some private institutions".