THE RIGHT TO INFORMATION COALITION COMMENDS THE SELECT COMMITTEE ON CONSTITUTIONAL, LEGAL AND PARLIAMENTARY AFFAIRS
The Right to Information Coalition would like to commend the Select Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs for the good work done on the Right to Information Bill by recommending revisions on the problematic areas of the Bill.
Specifically, the Coalition commends the Committee for engaging the relevant stakeholders in its discussions on the Bill. Since the Coalition’s engagement with the Select Committee led by its chairman, the Honourable Member of Parliament for Nadowli West, and in-coming Majority Leader, Mr. Alban Bagbin, the Committee has been keen on civil society’s involvement in the parliamentary processes geared towards reviewing the provisions of the Bill to ensure that they promote transparency and accountability and conform to best practices on the right to information legislation. Not only was the Coalition invited to meetings organized by the Committee to discuss the Bill, we were also given ample opportunities to present our concerns.
The Coalition is particularly appreciative of the fact that the Committee’s revisions were based on the African Union Model Law on Access to Information and the Coalition’s proposals submitted to Parliament. Most importantly, stakeholders were invited to make inputs on the revised clauses drafted by the Attorney General’s Office at the request of the Committee, at a meeting held in Koforidua on 2nd and 3rd September, 2014
The areas of the Bill which were rigorously debated and discussed to finalise a report to be presented to Parliament include: the long list of exemptions, which has now been subjected to a harm test, thereby banishing blanket exemptions from the Bill; the reduction of the excessive timelines for granting access, the inclusion of the establishment of an oversight mechanism to oversee implementation of the Bill when passed, and a simplified appeal process, amongst others.
These revisions proposed by the Committee are indications that members of the Committee are, indeed, sensitive to the views of ordinary Ghanaians and believe strongly in the preservation of our democratic tenets guided by the principle of probity, transparency and accountability.
Even though the Coalition is aware that the Committee does not have the final say in terms of the Bill that will finally be endorsed and passed by Parliament, the Coalition is hopeful that when the Bill is tabled on the floor of Parliament, members will be guided by the same commitment shown by their colleague Members of the Select Committee and see to it that Ghana does not retrogress in her steps towards the passage of a Right to Information Bill that will help protect the integrity of our public institutions.
The Coalition wishes to assure the Committee and Parliament that it will continue to provide the necessary support required particularly when the Bill is deliberated on the floor of Parliament. We also appeal to the people of Ghana to support and encourage their MPs to endorse the recommendations proposed by the Select Committee when the Bill is tabled in Parliament. Furthermore, the Coalition hopes that Parliament will continue to engage stakeholders until an effective Bill is passed into law and finally, we wish to call on Parliament to, without further delay, pass the Bill into law.
Issued by the RTI Coalition, September 8th, 2014