By Proper K. Kuorsoh/Abubakari Ibrahim Wangara, GNA
Wa, June 9, GNA – Civil Society Organisations (CSO) Platform on Sustainable Development Goals has expressed their intense desire to see Ghana pass Right To Information (RTI) law that meets global standards.
The Platform’s desire to see Ghana’s RTI Bill being passed into law in line with international standard is borne out of the country’s thriving democracy and its accolade as the beacon of rule of law in Africa.
Mrs Ugonna Ukaigwe, the National Coordinator of CSO Platform, expressed the desire in an interview with the GNA on the sidelines of a media sensitization forum in Wa, the Upper West Regional capital.
The forum was on Ghana’s RTI Bill 2018 under the RTI Action Campaign championed by the Accountable Democratic Institutions and Systems Strengthening (ADISS) Consortium and RTI Coalition.
Mrs Ukaigwe said because of Ghana’s high democratic credentials it is essential the country had an information law that could be used as a reference point in Africa and worldwide.
“Our Parliamentarians should see the need for our bill to be very progressive and as close as possible to international standards,” she said: “we cannot afford to fall short of that”.
Lawmakers would have to address outstanding issues in the current Bill including issues of exemptions and the time it would take a public official to decide to either grant or not to grant a request for the release of information.
Mrs Ukaigwe said the CSOs have raised several concerns against exemption of information from the Office of the President, arguing: those exemptions should be issue-based and not institutional-based.
Where an officer had to take 14 days to decide whether to grant a request for information or not was also objected to, she added: arguing that 14 days was too much for an officer to take only a decision on a request.
The issue of filing fee was equally objected by the Coalition members who rather proposed that persons requesting information be allowed to pay for the cost of generating that information only.
Vast proposals have been made to parliament for consideration, which Mrs Ukaigwe said in the CSOs engagements with the lawmakers, it was clear they were ready to listen to the inputs and improve the Bill.
The RTI Bill might not be passed without the media; she noted and urged journalists to help educate the public on the Bill.
She also highlighted the need to monitor compliance with the law once it was passed.
Advocacy by CSOs for passage of Ghana’s RTI Bill into law had been ongoing for about 17 years.
Efforts to get successive governments to pass the Bill drafted in 2002 has not yielded the desired results, though; some progress had been made concerning content review.
In view of this, Mrs Rachel Gyabaah, the Programme Officer of SEND-Ghana, ADISS Consortium and RTI Coalition in February 2018, launched a joint Campaign (RTl Action Campaign).
They had funding support from ADISS to put the RTI Bill on the front burner of policy in 2018 and secure its passage before the year ended.
Since then, series of multi-stakeholder meetings and coordinated advocacy initiatives have been going on with key CSOs, culminating in the Executive laying the Bill in Parliament on 23rd March 2018.
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