After two decades of back and forth, the Right to Information Bill was passed by Parliament on Tuesday March 26, 2019.
Having gone through several policy changes and amendments as well as rigorous debates on the floor of the House in the past, the virtually empty parliament read the Bill for the third time and passed it.
The House had to sit for longer hours into the evening to get the Bill passed by the few Members of Parliament present with Second Deputy Speaker, Alban Bagbin chairing proceedings.
President Nana Akufo-Addo is expected to assent to the Bill which is seen as a major addition to the credential of Ghana as a strong democracy.
The object of the RTI Bill is to provide for the operationalisation of the constitutional right to information held by public and some private institutions, subject to exemptions that are necessary and consistent with the protection of public interest in a democratic society.
It also seeks to foster a culture of transparency and accountability in public affairs and to provide for related matters.
The RTI Bill was first drafted in 1999, reviewed in 2003, 2005 and 2007 but was only presented to Parliament in 2010. It was brought back to the Sixth Parliament but could not be passed till the expiration of that Parliament on January 6, 2016.
After months of waiting, the Bill was laid in Parliament early last year (2018) by the Deputy Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mr Joseph Dindiok.
Last week Thursday, the Speaker of Parliament, Prof. Mike Oquaye ordered the removal of the RTI bill from parliament’s motion paper after a planned reading of the bill for the third time.
This was to enable Civil Society Organisations’ decision to make additional proposals to be inserted into the bill.
After the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee of Parliament had supposedly fine tuned the Bill with stakeholders, it was finally laid before the house to go through the third reading on Tuesday.
Attracting less controversy from both Majority and Minority MPs, the Bill was finally passed.
Meanwhile, Information Minister, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah told journalists after the passage of the bill that “its current form is sufficient to meet the requirement under Article 21.
The bill is expected to give substance to Article 21 (1) (f) of the Constitution which states that “All persons shall have the right to information subject to such qualifications and laws as are necessary in a democratic society”.
But Elvis Darko, a leading member of the RTI Coalition, a group made up of civil society and media practitioners, is not enthused about the current form of the bill that has been enacted.
He told TV3 News@10 that Parliament “refused to accept our last minute changes to make the bill better” despite sending the proposal to Parliament over a month ago.
He noted that how Clause 13 was drafted, it needed further clarification so that persons in authority do not take advantage to deny people of the information they are seeking because they are not bound by any timeline.
It was this input that forced the Speaker of Parliament to order the removal of the bill from the motion paper last week.
Mr. Darko is also not happy that the Act will take effect from 2020 because there is no financial support for its implementation now.