Parliament yesterday began the consideration of the Right to Information (RTI) Bill which has been before the House over a decade now.
The Bill, which was ushered into its consideration stage on Wednesday, is expected to be discussed clause by clause with all concerns debated and voted upon. When passed into Law, the Bill will give right and access to official information held by public institutions, private entities which perform public functions with public funds.
The right to information is a fundamental human right guaranteed by Ghana’s 1992 Constitution and recognized as a right under International Conventions on Human rights.
The purpose of the Right to Information Bill is to give substance to Article 21 (1) (f) of the Constitution which states that “All persons shall have the right to information subject to such qualifications and laws as are necessary in a democratic society.”
The Members of Parliament on first day of the consideration stage focused on Clauses 1 and 2 of the Bill which provides for access to official information held by a government agency except for information specified as exempt and maximum disclosure in relation to governance.
The information classified as exempt under clause 1 of the Bill include information concerning an individual’s physical or mental health, marriage or employment record, business or trade secrets of commercial value to the individual or professional, commercial or financial affairs, among others.
Maximum disclosure in relation to governance provided for in Clause 2 of the bill requires the government to make non-exempt information on governance available to the public without the need of an application and this is meant to ensure transparency in government and to contribute meaningfully to national development.
The Clause states that “in addition to the requirements of Article 67 of the Constitution, and subject to this Act, the government shall make available to the people general information on their governance without application from a specific person.” However, after extensive debate on the Bill, the legislators deleted the portion “in addition to the requirements of Article 67 of the Constitution and subject to this Act” from the Clause.
Speaker of Parliament, Hon. Deo Adjaho, after further deliberations on the matter, deferred the consideration of the Bill to Thursday and appealed to members to expedite action on the Bill.
The Bill was first drafted in 1999 and reviewed in 2003, 2005 and 2007 but was not presented to Parliament.
The first attempt at enacting the law on the right to information was made when the Bill was presented to Parliament on February 5, 2010.
Source : ISD (Gilbert Ankrah)