The Right to Information Coalition, (RTI), and Ghana has welcomed Parliament’s passage of the Office of Special Prosecutor Bill and notes with interest, the speed of consideration and passage in accordance with the wish and preference of the Executive arm of government.
The Coalition said in a Statement, “We share in the Finance Minister’s mention of the passage of the Office of Special Prosecutor Bill as an accomplishment in putting an anti-corruption arsenal together but are disappointed that the passage of the Right to Information Bill which would facilitate the provision of the necessary ammunition for the Office of Special Prosecutor has so far not been placed before Parliament.”
Read Statement below:
It is clear that Parliament prioritizes whatever business the Executive considers urgent and such business receives due attention and necessary action, as is appropriate.
It is worth noting that in the 2017 Budget Statement, the Finance Minister mentioned in paragraph 335 that “the Information Ministry will collaborate with all key stakeholders to agree on a programme of action for the passage of the Right to Information Bill into law”. The Minister further mentioned in paragraph 885 that “Mr. Speaker, this government is committed to passing the Right to Information Bill as part of our tools in fighting corruption. We will not pay lip service to fighting corruption.”
Interestingly eight (8) months down the line the Finance Minister, in the 2018 Budget Statement mentioned in paragraph 272 that “In line with the National Anti-Corruption Action Plan (NACAP), a Parliamentary Committee will be established to follow up on PAC recommendations, the Conduct for Public Officers’ Bill, the Manual on Standards and Ethics to complement the Code of Conduct for MPs and the Right to Information Bill”. Obviously, that commitment made in the 2017 Budget Statement seems to have been watered down.
The Coalition finds the context in which the RTI Bill is mentioned in the 2018 Budget Statement very revealing considering that government was not able to fulfill the commitments made on the Bill in the 2017 Budget Statement but refused to at least commit to achieve and build on it in the upcoming year Budget Statement as done for other commitments that were unfulfilled. Comparing the commitments on the RTI Bill in both Budget Statements and the fact that the Bill has not even moved from the Executive to Parliament almost at the end of the first year of government’s term in office amidst the numerous promises, one can confidently conclude that government’s commitments on the Bill has waned.
As an essential and a primary tool in fighting corruption, it would have been expected that the passage of the RTI Bill will be either the first or with the first on the list of promises to have been fulfilled.
Whilst access to information provides multiple benefits in the promotion of democratic governance, its continued absence as a dependable tool in the fight against
corruption regrettably exposes the apparent half-hearted resolve of officialdom.
In conclusion, we reiterate our call on President Nana Akufo-Addo to ensure that a Right to Information Bill is placed before Parliament before the end of the year, 2017 to begin the process of passage “very soon” as repeatedly promised.