The Right To Information (RTI) Action campaign has raised red flags over persistent flaws in the draft RTI Bill, 2018, following the laying in Parliament of the report of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and Communications. The Bill is currently at the Consideration.
The group says the Bill currently contains provisions that if not addressed by the House would render the entire exercise meaningless. The RTI action campaign also said the draft Bill is missing some key provisions that would it credible, insisting that certain clauses must be deleted or amended.
Mr. Kojo Asante, the Head of Advocacy at Centre for Democratic Development, Ghana and Member of RTI action campaign told Journalists in Accra that application to the relevant private sector should be mandatory not discretionary.
He explained that bill struggles with extending the law to relevant private entities and actors, saying this was because it seeks to expand the conditions for extension to go beyond a private sector receiving public resources. To cure the problem, he said, it gives the Attorney-General discretionary power to extend the law to cover private sector through a legislative instrument.
The RTI action campaign position according to Mr. Asante was that there is no ambiguity that a private entity using public resources should be subjected to the provisions of the law noting that “so if the bill wants to consider other conditions outside of it, it must oblige the Attorney General within a specific time frame to do the extension”.
On the need for citizens to show an identity card to access information, Asante opined that the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and Communications is proposing an amendment to clause 18 to require citizens to show an identity card when they apply for information. He said “In this day of technology are we suggesting that people should physically throng to public institutions to apply for information? It is not practical and not progressive. Certainly, it is important for people to identify themselves but if the information is supposed to be provided to general public then it is not essential to worry about the identity of the applicant.”
On the proposal by Joint Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and Communications that applicants are to apply to the Supreme Court when they are denied information. He said the proposal to invoke the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court is erroneous in this instance, disclosing that article 33 of the 1992 constitution is very clear that the High Court is the forum for enforcing all rights under the Constitution.
Article 135, Mr. Asante says, has to do with the disclosure of documents during judicial proceedings when national security considerations are raised.
Commenting on the expanding the list of types of information to be disclosed, he said, to provide the appropriate guidance on the types of information that should be disclosed proactively, the bill should adopt the proposals of articles 7 of the model law on access to information in Africa.
The RTI action campaign is of a firm conviction that it is imperative that the RTI law being discussed in Parliament actually provide and actualize the right to information. Members of Parliament, it says should remember that they are citizens first and politicians second.
Passing a credible law that would facilitate the effective participation of citizens in the affairs of the state, facilitate the welfare of citizens and promote transparency according to RTI action campaign would only inure to the benefit of all.
Source: Adovor Nutifafa