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The much-anticipated Right To Information (RTI) Bill has been laid in Parliament today, Friday, March 23, 2018 after Cabinet’s approval Thursday night.
The two decades old RTI bill was laid at the floor of parliament by Deputy Attorney General(AG) Joseph Kpemka Dindiok.
The Speaker of Parliament, Rt. Hon. Prof. Aaron Michael Oquaye, following the reading of the long title Bill, referred it to the Legal, Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs Committee for consideration and report to the plenary.
But the Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, cited procedural error in the laying of the Bill.
He contends that the Bill should have been published in the Gazzette at least fourteen days before introducing it to Parliament.
He buttressed his argument with Article 106 (2) (b) which states that “No bill, other than such a bill as is referred to in paragraph (a) of article 108 of this Constitution, shall be introduced in Parliament unless – it has been published in the Gazette at least fourteen days before the date of its introduction in Parliament”.
However, his argument was defeated by a superior argument advanced by the Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu who noted that the deputy Attorney-General did no wrong in introducing the Bill to Parliament without publication in the Gazzette for at least fourteen days.
According to him, once the Bill has been referred to the Legal, Constitutional and Parliamentary Committee for consideration and report to the House, it behoves on them to determine whether the Bill is or urgent nature or not before deciding whether to refer it to be published in the Gazzette for at least fourteen days for it to be introduced to Parliament again.
“Once they decide that the Bill is of urgent nature, it needs not to be published in the Gazzette before introducing it to Parliament”, he noted.
Government has been under massive pressure to get the bill laid before parliament rises today for the Easter break.
Civil Society Groups including the RTI coalition stepped up pressure after President Akufo-Addo’s independence day speech in which he committed to have the Bill presented to Parliament before it rises today, Friday.
It has been 22 years since the first Right to Information RTI Bill was drafted under the auspices of the Institute of Economic Affairs, IEA.
Also, it is 16 years since the Executive arm of Government in 2002 drafted the first RTI Bill. The draft Executive Bill was subsequently reviewed in 2003, 2005 and 2007 but was never laid in Parliament until February 5, 2010.