Parliament approves postponed start date for RTI Bill

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Parliament has approved an amendment to the Right to Information Bill (RTI) which seeks to extend the date for the commencement of the Bill after it is passed.

The amendment states that the Bill has to take effect in the next succeeding year after it is approved by Parliament and assented to by the President.

The Majority Leader, Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu in Parliament today, Wednesday, explained that the one year operationalization period will allow government to prepare fully for the financial implications of rolling out the much-awaited Bill.

“The fact of the matter is that the Right to Information Bill comes with a huge financial implication. It is the reason why in some jurisdictions like Canada, it took five years for them to operate the act when they passed it. When Australia passed the Act it took them two years to operationalize it. Mr. Speaker, this year’s budget does not make any provision for the implementation of the Act if Parliament passes and the President assents to it. So I guess what we could do for us to say that the Act shall come to effect in the 2020 financial year.”

He also called on government to make budgetary allocations to the RTI Bill in subsequent supplementary budgets so that the necessary offices could be set up this year to allow for a seamless implementation of the Bill in 2020.

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“We would urge government that if they will come with supplementary estimates, provisions should be made to start the implementation in earnest. So that when we enter into the next financial year, which is 2020, we shall have a full-scale implementation of the Right to Information Bill. We need to train information offices. We need to have information offices allocated or in some cases even constructed,” he added.

Meanwhile, the House is yet to pass the entire Bill which has been the subject of public interest for some time now following its long stay in Parliament.

The passage of the Bill has delayed in recent times because of contention over whether to operationalise it within 12 months or as soon as it is passed into law.

The RTI Bill has been in Parliament for close to two decades but is yet to be passed despite calls from the media and civil society groups.

Decide by Tuesday when RTI Bill should function after passage – Parliament to Executive
The Speaker of Parliament, Professor Mike Oquaye, earlier gave the Executive arm of government till Tuesday, February 5, to advise the House on when the long-awaited Right To Information Bill should take effect as a law, to aid its smooth implementation after passage.

“We will give the Executive appropriate time up to Tuesday to dialogue with this honourable house and consider whether they are in a position to enforce this immediately or not. And I know the Executive will take a very good consideration of the matter. Therefore, list the matter for Tuesday so that honourable learned Attorney General will advise us either in writing or in person so that we conclude this matter to the satisfaction of our people as a whole,” he added.

Coalition calls for further amendments to RTI Bill
Three advocacy groups bent on seeing to it that the Right to Information Bill (RTI) is passed into law had earlier demanded further amendments to the Bill to align with the 1992 constitution.

The Right to Information (RTI) Ghana, the Media Coalition on RTI, and OccupyGhana explained that the technical committee of the coalition reviewed the amendments effected so far by Parliament and recommends to Parliament two main issues that deserve further review.

For the amendments effected to Clause 13, a joint statement from the advocacy groups noted that Clause 13 exempts information that reveals an opinion, advice, recommendation, consultation or deliberation made to any public institution because it is likely to undermine that institution’s deliberative processes.

It said while the coalition acknowledged the need to facilitate the effective functioning of the government and the State, any limits to the constitutional right to information must be narrowly constructed.

It said, unfortunately, the current draft of Clause 13 could be easily misconstrued to severely, if not completely, dilute the right to information.

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