By: Gabrel Okine
RIGHT TO INFORMiATION LAW, RTI Act (Act 989)
The Right to Information (RTI) Law was passed on 26 March 2019 by the Parliament of Ghana. It received presidential assent on May 21, 2019, and became effective in January 2020. This bill is to enable citizens to hold the government accountable to ensure that there is a high level of transparency in governance of the country.
The following are some values of the RTI bill:
- Transparency and accountability
- Empowering Citizens
- Strengthening Democracy
- Public Interest
- International Standards
- Good governance
- Improved decision-making
- Increased participation
- Improved service delivery
(I) Information Holders (IH)
(ii) Information Officers (IO)
(iii) Internal Review Officers (IRO)
(iv) The seven member RTI Commission
v) The High Court where persons aggrieved by decisions of the RTI Commission may seek further redress in judicial review applications.
WHAT TO KNOW:
An information officer has 14 days to determine the status of your application. If your request has been denied, you are entitled to appeal the decision under sections 31-39 of the RTI Law.
- The information officer’s immediate supervisor will review the appeal, known as an “internal review.” If access to the information is still denied, you are however legally entitled to request to the RTI Commission, a body that will be established to promote, monitor, protect, and enforce your right to information.
CHALLENGES IN IMPLEMENTING THE RTI BILL:
- Lack of awareness among citizens
- Limited resources
- Exemptions to disclosure
- Limited capacity of the RTI Commission
- It places no obligation on private actors including corporations to reveal information about their products or activities that might have a prejudicial effect on public safety or the environment
RTI AS A VALUABLE TOOL FOR JOURNALISTS:
- Investigative reporting
- Promoting transparency
THE COURTS AND RTI AS A FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT (case study)
- The Human Rights Division of the High Court presided over by Justice Anthony K. Yeboah on 13th April 2016 once said People are entitled to information not because a benevolent government decides to do them a favour, but they are entitled as a matter of a birth right by reason of being human rendered what would become the first judgment sending a signal that the courts will enforce the rights of citizens to information even if the law was not passed.
- News reports emerged from Parliament revealing that the Ministry of Transport spent GHC 3.6 million on the branding of 116 Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) buses at the cost of approximately GHC 31,000 per bus. However, in some media interviews granted by the artist, who was engaged to undertake the bus branding, he disclosed that he charged GHC 1,600 per bus. Lolan Kow Sagoe-Moses and six other members of the Citizen Ghana Movement (CGM) mounted the suit in the performance of their civic duty under Article 41(1) of the Constitution, 1992 “to protect and preserve public property and expose and combat misuse and waste of public funds and property”. It was a long drawn battle but in the end, the court ordered that they should be furnished with copies of the contract for the branding of the 116 buses because it was their fundamental human right to be given that information.
- Limited implementation
- Limited awareness
- Limited resources