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Revisit Commencement Clause and other Clauses of RTI – RTI Coalition tells Parliament

Some three key stakeholders of the Right to Information Bill (RTI) have reacted to a decision by the sixth Parliament of the 4th Republic of Ghana, to accept a new commencement clause that will technically activate the implementation of the expected RTI Act 2019 in January 2020. The reaction comes after the 1st Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Hon. Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, proposed that the RTI Bill when passed, ‘’shall come into full force at the beginning of the next financial year because government did not make provision for the RTI in the 2019 budget and therefore have resources to finance activities to be implemented under the law.’’ This was followed by an acceptance of the new commencement clause of the RTI, causing a temporary suspension of the passage of the bill.

Expressing their displeasure in a press release, the coalition – OccupyGhana, The Coalition on the Right to Information Ghana, and the Media Coalition on RTI – however noted that the ‘’unnecessary delay in the implementation of the overdue 25-year old constitutional right’’ is likely to cause a lot of problems. The group alluded to the fact that there are various ways in which the 2019 budget could be varied to make provisions for unanticipated expenditure. It found Hon. Kyei Mensah Bonsu’s proposition of a new commencement clause as unacceptable, hinting that the Ministry of Finance could, as an alternative, reallocate money for the bill in a mid-year supplementary budget.

The group found it worrying that the RTI Bill has no defined schedule of what will be done between the period when it gets assented to by President Akuffo-Addo. It argued that in the case of countries that had seen the successful passing of an Information Bill, there was a clear transitional schedule of provisions enshrined in the law. With this, the coalition made reference to an earlier proposition that sought from ‘’the relevant Executive Agencies to implement the provisions of sections 18, 19, 42, 50, 57, 78, 90 and other consequential sections within 180 days from the date the act is assented to’’ by President Akuffo-Addo.

The coalition therefore expressed disappointment that the 1st Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Hon. Kyei Mensah Bonsu, had failed to acknowledge its earlier letter or engage it on the proposition. It also reiterated its concern with current draft of clause 13 of the RTI Bill, adding that it will be prudent for a 2nd consideration of this clause because it is ‘’inconsistent’’ with the reasonable limitations imposed on Article 21 (1) (f).

The coalition therefore urged Parliament to ensure the passage of an RTI Bill that truly guarantees the right to information, and not a denial of information. It therefore stated its intention to visit Parliament on Tuesday 19th February 2019, to meet the Minority Leader, Hon. Haruna Iddrisu, as well as leadership of Parliament’s Committee charged with the responsibility of the Bill.

Source: Fiilafmonline.com/Stanley Asumadu

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