NDC fails to pass RTI Bill into law
By Fatima Adam
With just a day to the fourth session of the fifth Parliament of the fourth Republic of Ghana to end, it is very clear that the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) will not pass the Right to Information (RTI) Bill into law, as promised.
Parliament will rise on Wednesday, October 31, to return on December 17, 2012, after the general elections. Thus, proponents of the bill will have to wait and hope that the bill will see the light of day in the next Parliament, between 2013 and 2016.
The NDC, during the 2008 electioneering campaign, pledged to pass the RTI into law if voted into power. This was also captured on page 24 of their 2008 manifesto, which stated that; “the new NDC government shall enact into law the freedom of information Bill to facilitate access to official information”.
The failure by the NDC to pass the RTI bill also means that they have restricted Ghanaians from enjoying their constitutional right, as stipulated in Article 1 of the 1992 constitution, which states thus: “all persons shall have the right to information, subject to such qualifications and laws, as are necessary in a democratic society”.
Currently, Ghana is lagging behind neighboring countries like Nigeria, Togo, Sierra Leone and Liberia among others, who have all passed the RTI into law.
The RTI Coalition in Ghana, led by Human Rights activist, Nana Oye Lithur, wrote a petition to parliament on January 27, 2010, to question why the legislature was delaying in the passage of the law.
In that petition, the group lamented over the fact that since 2002, when the first RTI Bill was drafted, successive governments have failed to pass it into law, despite their promises.
The group stressed the need for the passage of the bill as they believed it will deepen Ghana’s democracy and ensure accountability of government. But the Majority leader in Parliament, Hon. Cletus Avoka, stated that though the Bill is a very important one, Parliament would need time to ensure its passage.
He assured the coalition that the Bill would be passed into law but did not give a specific time. But with the time left for the NDC to complete its first term, it is very obvious the ruling government cannot fulfill their promise of passing the RTI Bill into law.
However, on Monday, the members of Parliament passed the Internal Revenue (Tax Amnesty) Bill 2011 into law. The law seeks to grant tax amnesty to persons who have failed to file tax returns or pay taxes as required under the Internal Revenue Act, 2000 (Act 592).
The bill ensures that such persons are granted amnesty from paying penalties and interest in respect of taxes due or payable.
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