Ghana:Coalition on RTI accuses Parliament of acting in bad faith
This is a discussion on Ghana:Coalition on RTI accuses Parliament of acting in bad faith within the RTI News & Discussion forums, part of the RTI News, Circulars and Decisions category; From: Ghana/Myjoyonline.com/Jerry Tsatro Mordy The Coalition on the Right to Information (RTI) in Ghana says it doubts the assurances from the Parliamentary Select Joint Committee that, the Bill will be ...
- 07-20-2012, 06:48 AM #1
Ghana:Coalition on RTI accuses Parliament of acting in bad faith
From: Ghana/Myjoyonline.com/Jerry Tsatro Mordy
The Coalition on the Right to Information (RTI) in Ghana says it doubts the assurances from the Parliamentary Select Joint Committee that, the Bill will be passed into law before Parliament goes on recess at the end of July.
Chairman of the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Emmanuel Bandua last Friday told Joy News despite the public perception that Parliament would not pass the Bill, the Joint Committee was intending to lay the Bill before Parliament for consideration.
Mr. Bandua however said Parliament was being delayed in its proceedings by outstanding input from CHRAJ.
However, the Coalition claims that CHRAJ had already raised its concerns regarding the proposal to take on the additional role of an Independent Information Commission to the Joint Committee.
The Coalition in a statement issued on Thursday, said it “considers this new twist most disturbing”.
“We wish to alert the general public against any attempt to pass a right to information law without the necessary amendments that will guarantee citizens the genuine right of access to information as provided for in the Constitution” the statement said.
The statement said “due to the latest developments, the Coalition is now under the impression that the Joint Committee has acted in bad faith in its dealings with the Coalition”.
Read the full statement below:
PRESS STATEMENT FROM THE COALITION ON THE RIGHT TO INFORMATION (RTI) GHANA ON THE STATUS OF THE RTI BILL
On behalf of the Coalition on the Right to Information (RTI) in Ghana, which has been advocating for the passage of a RTI law for Ghana for several years now, we hereby wish through the media to draw the attention of the good people of Ghana to the following developments on the RTI Bill.
We find this necessary as a result of certain events that make us doubt the assurances we have received that the Parliamentary Select Joint Committee has adopted most of the views of the public on amendments to the Bill and the further assurance from the Majority Leader of Parliament, Hon. Cletus Avoka, that the Bill will be passed into law before Parliament goes on recess at the end of July.
It will be recalled that the RTI Bill was first laid before Parliament on 5th February 2010. It was only in July-August 2011, however, that the Select Joint Committee on Communications and Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs held its regional consultations to collect the views of the Ghanaian public on the Bill.
It is significant to note that to date the Joint Committee has been unable to produce a report on its regional consultations. This is so even though the production of the report has in the past been given as one of the reasons holding back the processes leading to the passage of the Bill into law.
Indeed, at its meeting held on 10th March 2012 to consider the outcome of the regional consultations, the Joint Committee had to rely on a summary produce by officials of the World Bank on the main issues raised by the public during the regional consultation.
The Joint Committee, after discussing the issues raised in the summary produced by the World Bank, decided that it needed further technical input on those issues and therefore requested that the Coalition produce an Option Paper/Zero Draft involving specific amendments on these issues for its consideration.
The issues identified were:
(i) Exemptions; (ii) Private Bodies; (iii) An Independent Information Commission; (iv) Fees; (v) Accountability measures for collecting and managing internally generated funds; (vi) Appeal Process; and (vii) Declassification of Information.
Somehow, the Joint Committee omitted the question of timelines for disclosure of information upon request, a matter that was a major issue throughout the regional consultations.
On its part, therefore, the Coalition submitted a thirty-page document, named Option Paper/Zero Draft to the Joint Committee on 21st May 2012 on specific amendments to the Bill.
Before then, when the Coalition organized a march to Parliament to press home the need to treat the passage of the Bill into law with urgency, the Majority Leader, Hon. Cletus Avoka, responded by saying that Parliament would not be stampeded into passing the law. More recently, in the evening news of Joy FM on 7th May under pressure from the Coalition and the mass media, Hon. Cletus Avoka stated to the amazement of Ghanaians that the RTI Bill was not a priority of Parliament.
This statement by the Majority Leader only served to increase public pressure for the passage of the Bill, with the necessary amendments, into law.
Despite several requests by the Coalition to the Joint Committee to inform it of their findings on the regional consultations or the Zero Draft no documents were provided to us. During a forum on the RTI organized by the Institute of Democratic Governance (IDEG) on 18th June 2012, the Majority Leader under intense pressure from the audience promised that Parliament would pass the RTI Bill into law before it went on recess at the end of July 2012.
The Coalition continued to request a meeting with the Joint Committee on the Committees consideration of the proposals in the Option Paper/Zero Draft. Finally, the Joint Committee invited the Steering Committee of the Coalition to a meeting at Parliament House on 22nd June 2012.
At this meeting, the Joint Committee informed us that it had accepted most of our proposals in the Option Paper/Zero Draft during a workshop of the Committee in Koforidua on 16th and 17th June and further that in some cases it had even improved upon some of our proposals.
The following points were then discussed and agreed on in that meeting:
The Joint Committee said that they had taken the proposals in the Option Paper into consideration and accordingly removed whole sections from the Bill;
The Joint Committee agreed that applicants should not bear the costs of poor-record keeping and therefore should only be charged for the actual production of the information (i.e. the print-out), not for the time it takes to obtain it;
The Joint Committee informed the Coalition that the proposed timeline to decide on an application of 14 days was too long in their opinion and that they had therefore even shortened it;
- Independent Information Commission
The views here differed. Whereas the Joint Committee generally agreed onthe necessity of an independent implementation body, it suggested CHRAJ for this role; the Coalition, however, was of the opinion that even though CHRAJ was carrying out its mandate in a commendable fashion, it would not be advisable to add the mandate of oversight and implementation of a right to information regime to its three-pronged mandate (anti-corruption, human rights, ombudsman), as it was already burdened with these functions. The Coalition argued that, considering the massive challenge that oversight and implementation of a right to information law involved, what was required was a new and independent Commission altogether and that adding this function to CHRAJs existing mandate was the surest way of weakening the enforcement of a right to information regime in the country.
- Appeal process
The Joint Committee agreed with the Coalitions view that the Supreme Court as the second and last instance of appeal would be a deterrent for most Ghanaians and therefore suggested that if the applicant is not happy with the decision of the a Minister, in the first instance, that individual can appeal to the Independent information Commission. If the Commission finds in favor of the citizen and the Minister is unhappy, the Minister can go the Supreme Court as the last instance.
At the end of the meeting, the Chairman promised the Coalition that it would be provided with a list of those proposals from the Zero Draft that the Committee had adopted by the end of the following week (29th June) and that the Joint Committee would see to the presentation of the amended Bill to Parliament before going on recess at the end of July.
On 5th July the Coalition was asked to collect a letter from the Joint Committee on the Committees views on the Zero Draft.
This letter consisted of three pages and contained merely three (3) clauses from the Zero Draft which the Joint Committee had adopted. Incredibly, of these three clauses, only one dealt with a substantive proposal in the Zero Draft.
There was no mention of the clauses discussed and which we were made to believe had been agreed on with the Coalition during the meeting of 22nd June 2012; and not a word on those clauses, which the Joint Committee had apparently assured us had been adopted at its meeting in Koforidua on 16th - 17th June, save perhaps the clause on fees.
The letter did not indicate whether the Joint Committee would inform the Coalition about other proposed amendments, if any, we could expect the Committee to adopt or how soon the Committee would present its final report to the full House of Parliament for consideration and passage into law before Parliament went on recess.
We need to emphasize that the Coalition does not expect the Joint Committee necessarily to adopt every one of its proposals. We however expect that the Committee will be true to the assurances it gives.
Due to the latest developments, the Coalition is now under the impression that the Joint Committee has acted in bad faith in its dealings with the Coalition.
On Friday 13th July 2012, Joy FM broadcast a statement of the Chairman of the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Hon. Emmanuel Bandua, in which he claimed that - despite the publics perception that Parliament would not pass the Bill - the Joint Committee was intending to lay the Bill before Parliament for consideration but was being delayed in its proceedings by outstanding input from CHRAJ.
Meanwhile, CHRAJ had already raised its concerns regarding the proposal to take on the additional role of an Independent Information Commission to the Joint Committee. Despite these concerns, the Joint Committee continued their pressure on CHRAJ by asking them to develop ideas on necessary mechanisms for implementation in case they were to be provided with additional funding.
The Coalition considers this new twist most disturbing.
Given that Parliament has only two weeks to go on recess at the end of this month, we are greatly concerned.
Either, the promises made by the Majority Leader and the Chairman of the Joint Committee will not be kept, or, if the promises are kept, this will be done to the detriment of the RTI Bill, which, if passed at this stage, would not contain the necessary amendments as suggested by the Coalition and therefore rather undermine the right and access to information.
We urge the Joint Committee to inform the people of Ghana on the following urgent issues:
1. Whether /and which further content-related proposals of the Zero Draft have been accepted by the Joint Committee or are the three clauses in the letter of 5th July to the Coalition the only substantive amendments to the Bill?
2. Will the Coalition be provided with a list of all the other amended provisions as agreed by the Joint Committee in Koforidua and if so, when?
3. When will the Joint Committee be in a position to provide a version of the Bill to Parliament that meets the needs and demands of the people of Ghana, for the second reading?
We call on Parliament to keep the various promises made to us.
We wish to alert the general public against any attempt to pass a right to information law without the necessary amendments that will guarantee citizens the genuine right of access to information as provided for in the Constitution.
We hereby wish to serve Parliament with notice that we shall campaign against any restrictive right to information Bill, such as the current RTI Bill.
We call on you, the good people of Ghana, to ask your MPs whether they intend to meet their constitutional obligation to pass a RTI law in Ghana; whether they take you seriously in your demand for a law that meets human rights and international best practice standards; or whether they are simply playing for time, leaving it for the next government and Parliament to deal with your concerns.
- 07-28-2012, 06:52 AM #2
Re: Ghana:Coalition on RTI accuses Parliament of acting in bad faith
Reported by GNA in modernghana.com on 27 July 2012
Right to Information Bill will exonerate MPs, Ministers - NGO - ModernGhana.com
Sunyani (B/A), July 26, GNA – The passage of the Right to Information Bill (RTI) will help exonerate especially Members of Parliament (MPs) and Ministers of State on allegations of corruption, the Coalition for RTI, a Non-Governmental Organisation, said on Thursday.
The Coalition advised all MPs to study the bill well and speed up processes for its passage in their own interest and the supreme interest of the nation.
Speaking at a meeting to update stakeholders on the RTI in Sunyani, Mr. Gabriel Gbiel Benarkuu, Brong-Ahafo Regional Coordinator of the Coalition, observed with concern that the bill had been in Parliament for 10 years but no major significant stride had been made for its passage.
The meeting, jointly organized by Brong-Ahafo Network of NGOs (BANGO), Commonwealth Human Rights International, an NGO and the Coalition, was attended by media practitioners, Assembly Members, representatives of political parties and civil society organizations.
Mr. Benarkuu expressed concern about the views collected during the public consultation fora on the bill at the regional level, which had been left behind and called on the committee to ensure the necessary amendments were made before finalizing the bill.
He observed with regret that since it was first drafted in 2002, the bill had been viewed with lack of enthusiasm in political circles, with the argument that Ghanaians were not ready for such a law and that the RTI would be too costly for a developing country like Ghana, among other reasons.
“What politicians fail to see is that an effective right to information provides an enhanced and enabling climate for the full realization of other fundamental human rights. The right to information is rightly connected to the right to shelter, water and basic infrastructure and the right to development as a whole”, Mr. Benarkuu stated.
The RTI regional coordinator regretted the recent developments which revealed that the Parliamentary joint committee had been acting contrary to promises made to Ghanaians, both on public platform and in discussions with the coalition.
Mr. Benarkuu stressed the need to increase grassroots pressure at the constituency level to ensure that the final bill would be garnered from responses of the regional consultations.
He said the coalition would continue to campaign against any restrictive right to the passage of the information bill without the necessary amendments that would guarantee citizens the genuine right of access to information as provided for in the 1992 constitution.
Mr. Raphael Godlove Ahenu Junior, Regional secretary of the coalition, said the right to information was fundamental to the realization of economic and social rights as well as civil and political rights.
“The right to information lays the foundation upon which to build good governance, transparency, accountability, participation and check arbitrariness and corruption in public life”, he stated.
Mr. Ahenu, who is Chief Executive Officer of Global Media Foundation, an NGO, stated that freedom of, or right to, information was an internationally recognized fundamental human right.
“It is also based on the democratic principle that in a democracy the sovereignty of a nation lies in the hands of the people in whose name and on whose behalf the government exercises its powers”, he added.
- 08-28-2012, 07:50 AM #3
Re: Ghana:Coalition on RTI accuses Parliament of acting in bad faith
Coalition expresses concern about the delay in the passage of RTI Bill
Reported by vibeghana.com on August 28, 2012
Coalition expresses concern about the delay in the passage of RTI Bill | VibeGhana.com
The Brong-Ahafo Regional Chapter of the Coalition of the Right to Information Bill (RTI) on Monday expressed concern about the delay in the passage of the Bill.
The group wondered why in spite of the fact that access to information could strengthen democracy, good governance, transparency, accountability, lead to economic growth and poverty reduction, Parliament was reluctant to pass the law.
Mr Gabriel Gbiel Benarkuu (ed.correct), Brong Ahafo Regional Chairman of the coalition expressed the concern when he briefed some community volunteers on the state of the bill at a meeting in Sunyani.
It organised the meeting in collaboration with Star-Ghana, an NGO that promotes transparency and accountability.
Mr Benarkuu regretted that politicians had failed to recognise that an effective RTI provided an enhanced and enabling climate for the full realisation of other fundamental human rights.
He emphasised that Ghana’s RTI bill since it was drafted in 2002, had been viewed with lack of enthusiasm from politicians who argued that Ghanaians were not ready for such a law.
Mr Benarkuu noted that freedom of, or right to, information was an internationally recognised fundamental human right to access information held by government bodies.
He dispelled the wrong perception in the minds of some politicians that the bill was drafted to solely target them and to fight corruption indicating that when passed, the bill would also empower the citizenry to access information, especially on socio-economic issues.
The Regional Chairman explained that the bill would rather clear the minds of the general public on perceived corruption among public office holders and exonerate politicians since the citizenry would have the opportunity to demand or seek relevant information from them.
Mr. Benarkuu stated that recent developments had revealed that the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the RTI had been acting contrary to promises made to Ghanaians both on public platform and in discussions with the coalition.
This development, he said, called for the need to increase grassroots pressure at the constituency level to ensure that the final bill would meet the needs of Ghanaians as garnered from responses of the regional consultations organised by Parliament to solicit the views of the people on the bill.
Mr Raphael Godlove Ahenu, Brong Ahafo Regional Secretary of the coalition emphasised that RTI was closely connected with the right to shelter, water, basic infrastructure and the right to development as a whole.
He said now that Parliament was not willing to pass the bill, it behoved on the electorate to impress on
Parliamentarians, especially during the electioneering campaign on what they could do for the passage of the bill in the supreme interest of the nation.
Right to information, Mr. Ahenu added, was a constitutional requirement and entreated all and sundry to champion the advocacy for its passage into law.
- 09-08-2012, 06:27 AM #4
Re: Ghana:Coalition on RTI accuses Parliament of acting in bad faith
Ghanaians need education on the Right to Information
News Date: 7th September 2012
BusinessGhana - Ghana, Business Advice, Jobs, News, Business Directory, Real Estate, Finance, Forms, Auto
Ms. Caroline Nalule, Regional Coordinator, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative CHRI), on Wednesday called for the education of Ghanaians on the Right to Information (RTI).
She said Ghanaians should be aware of their fundamental human rights and also be able to access information from public institutions.
Ms. Nalule, who was speaking at an internship, organised by the CHRI) in Accra, said that it was essential for Ghanaians to be informed about the overview of the RTI and constitutional and legal background of the RTI.
He said they should also be educated on activities being undertaken by CHRI to promote RTI in Ghana, advocacy for the passing into law of the Right to Information Bill and RTI under existing laws in Ghana.
Mr. Osei Owusu, a facilitator of the event, said Ghanaians should know the content of the Right to Information Bill currently before Parliament.
He said concerns about issues regarding the Bill, such as the numerous exemptions, time access, maximum disclosure of information, fee requirements, independent enforcement organ, appeals process, inclusion of private bodies, inclusion of chieftaincy institutions and record keeping should be addressed.
Mr Owusu appealed to Ghanaians to intensify the advocacy on the amendment of the Bill before its passage into law.
As part of activities under the project, CHRI embarked on a follow-up visit to assess efforts being made by Ghanaians to carry out public awareness on RTI.