Questions are being asked by individuals and civil society groups advocating for the passage of the Right to Information Bill whether President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo- Addo meant business when he mentioned government’s readiness to pass the bill before Parliament rises.
Their doubts stems from the fact that this is not the first time such statements had been made by politicians regarding their willingness to pass the RTI, yet the bill has existed for over a decade without it being passed.
The President said while addressing the nation at the 61st independence Anniversary Celebration in Accra on Tuesday that the Right to Information Bill is critical in the fight against corruption, promising to present it to Parliament again for passage before the House rises.
He told Ghanaians, “There is, however, one piece of the anti-corruption framework that is yet to be put in place; The Right to Information Act. It would increase transparency and add another critical weapon to the armoury in the fight against corruption.
“After many years of hesitation, we intend to bring a Bill again to Parliament and work to get it passed into law before Parliament rises. The protection of the public purse is a social common good, and it depends on all of us. It is in all our interest that corruption does not thrive, and we police each other’s behaviour.”
With the above statement from the first gentleman of the land, they are optimistic that this could be the last of such statement considering the platform the he chose to make those remarks.
In an interview with Public Agenda on Thursday, The Executive Secretary of the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition, Beauty Emefa Nartey said the pronouncement was encouraging especially for those who are advocating for the RTI bill to be passed.
The Bill when passed will give power to the constitutional provision that gives every Ghanaian the right to information. It will form the basis for every citizen to go to any government agency to demand information that should be public but may have been unpublished.
She noted however that “As we are always expecting that this bill should be passed, I think that if he is able to lay it in Parliament before this meeting rises, it is something that we will really commend him for. I think he will get a lot of commendation from us.”
She observed that the platform he made the comment on, was a serious one because it is not a political platform, stressing, “it is a platform that any remark that you make should be taken seriously.”
She continued, “the platform was to commemorate Ghana’s Independence Day so I think that it should be taken seriously. I think the president himself should give us the benefit of the doubt that he will not disrespect that platform on which he made that statement.”
Her position was earlier corroborated by Mr Sulemana Braimah, Executive Director of the Media Foundation for West African and a member of the Right to Information Coalition, who stated that the Platform on which the President made the comment was a memorable one .
Mr Braimah told myjoyonline.com on Tuesday he had confidence the President will live up to the promise.
He said “I think it is a welcoming piece of news. The New Patriotic Party [the President’s party] in their campaign manifesto highlighted it as one of the things they will do [to deal with corruption] and on assumption of office a number of promises have been made.
“But I think this is the first time that we are hearing from the President himself directly at an important forum such as the Independence Day anniversary and not only has he made a promise, I think it is important that he has put a timeline to it,”
The Right to Information Coalition that has been pushing for the passage of the bill into law believes the law will deepen transparency and firm up Ghana’s democracy.
By Mohammed Suleman