The Right to Information Bill currently before Parliament has several fundamental defects which would become obstacles to citizens’ right to accessing information should the bill be passed out without the necessary amendment.
“The bill, when passed into law, will be a tangent horse. It is a bad bill that needs to be amended before it is passed into law”, Mr Akoto Ampaw, Steering Committee Member, Coalition on the Right to Information, Ghana said on Wednesday during a meeting with the Editors Forum.
The meeting was to enable the two bodies to deliberate on the RTI bill and also for the Coalition to brief newsmen of the status of the bill.
Mr Ampaw explained that some of the tenets in the draft bill will rather delay the period of time people could apply and access information they require, which could take between six months or even a year.
People will also have to pay a fee for applying for information and be surcharge for other expenses like the number of days an Information Officer would use in looking for the information for applicants.
Another flaw in the bill is the issue of exemptions, which allows other vital information bordering on the presidency and other areas to be concealed from public even upon request.
Mr Ampaw said the provisions in the bill that sought to give the Commission on Human Rights Administration and Justice (CHRAJ) the mandate to implement the RTI Bill when passed into law was not the best.
He said giving CHRAJ the mandate was not the best, we need to set up an Independent Commission, “to ensure that we have dedicated public organ that will train information officers and also develop guidelines as to how the law could be applied or interpreted.”
He said all those issues had been raised by both civil society and members of the Coalition to the Parliamentary Select Committee handling the Bill but it had been given any serious regards.
He blamed the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) governments as well as Parliament for their reluctance over the past two decades in passing the RTI bill.
Ms Ajoa Yeboah-Afari, Chairperson of the Editors Forum, Ghana, commended the Coalition for their commitment in ensuring that Ghana has such an effective Law that would deepen the nation’s democracy.
She said the free flow of information was a component of a free media and society as well as a weapon to fight corruption.
She asked the media to join the struggle in ensuring that the content of the bill were amended to the suit required and acceptable norms and also help push for its early passage.