By Maxwell Ofori
The President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has assented to the long-awaited Right to Information Act, passed by Parliament before going on recess.
At a brief ceremony at Jubilee House in Accra, President Akufo-Addo expressed happiness at the finalisation of the processes that led to the passage of the over a decade old bill.
He congratulated the current Legislature for its courage, sense of responsibility, and commitment to good governance in passing the law.
It was the expectation of the President that the RTI law would enhance the quality of governance in the country, and provide a critical tool in the fight against corruption in public life.
“I am very happy that this law has finally been passed, and I did make the commitment that when it was brought to me, I would give my assent to it right away. It was, in fact, brought to me yesterday (Monday) afternoon.”
“But, on second thoughts, I felt that I should sign it in plain view of the Ghanaian people, for you to know that this long-winding parliamentary process has finally come to an end,” President Akufo-Addo asserted.
The President reiterated that due financial obligations that came with the RTI, its implementation had been postponed to next year.
He further explained that some monetary allocations would be made in the 2019 budget for the ensuing year to cater for the effective implementation of the RTI law.
This law is to grant the pubic the opportunity to partake in policy preparation and other decision-making processes, and empower citizens to hold public institutions and officials accountable for their actions and inactions.
The motive is to ensure that the interest of the public is protected, while ensuring that corruption is reduced to its barest minimum.
The RTI is recognised by the United Nations (UN), the Commonwealth and the African Union, as a fundamental human right necessary for good governance.
The bill was first drafted by the government in 1999, reviewed in 2003, 2005, and 2007, but was never presented to Parliament for passage.
However, an RTI bill was presented to the Fifth Parliament on February 5, 2010, and was referred to the Joint Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and Communications for consideration and report.
The Committee consulted broadly with major stakeholders across the country, but consideration of the bill was not finalised before that Parliament’s term ended.
On Tuesday, November 12, 2013, the bill was again presented to Parliament and referred to the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs for consideration and report.
During the consideration of the bill, institutions such as the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI, Africa Office), the Perfector of Sentiments Foundation (POS), and Persons with Disability Ghana presented memoranda on the RTI bill to the committee.
In December 2014, the committee presented its report to the Plenary, and the bill was read for the second time in July 2015.
The current government, which had promised the citizens it would pass the RTI, drafted a new bill and presented it to 7th Parliament for consideration and passage.
Parliament, in March this year, passed the bill, and subsequently, the Presidential assent gave life to the RTI law.