ASSENT GIVEN BY PRESIDENT AKUFO-ADDO FOR THE RIGHT TO INFORMATION BILL TO BECOME LAW.
It is commendable the speed with which President Akufo-Addo assented to the law on Right to Information. This follows its passage by parliament in March this year. The only snag is that it will take effect in January 2020. The road to the passage of the law has been quite tortuous as several attempts were made to jettison or frustrate its passage. The fact is that, the bill had gone through two decades of advocacy. It was first drafted in 1999 and was reviewed several times. It all started with the Institute of Economic Affairs, IEA, a policy think tank when the Bank of Ghana refused to give it information on the interest rate, inflation and national debt for national security reasons.
If today the bill has finally been given Presidential assent for it to become an enforceable law, then we need to applaud all the players who fought to make it a reality. This is because it will put our democracy into a better state. Ghana’s democracy has been touted globally and the RTI law will raise our credentials higher. We need information not only to check corruption or ensure transparency in governance but to make objective and informed political choice. The 1992 constitution grants every citizen the Right to Information and under its government and for that matter public institutions ought not to withhold information from the people except under a few circumstances necessary and consistent with the protection of public interest.
It is our hope that after January 2020 the law does not become a paper tiger but will be made to work to justify its passage and give true meaning to the people’s right to know. For it is said knowledge is power. Article 21 of the 1992 constitution gives every citizen a duty to protect and preserve public property, expose and combat the misuse and waste of public funds. Enforcing the people’s right to free speech and expression will therefore enhance good governance and ensure probity and accountability. Civil Society has made a number of recommendations for the smooth implementation of the RTI law. These include the establishment of an RTI commission and the building of a coalition to support the workability of the law.
There is also the need for an information storage and retrieval architecture which is key to the implementation of the law. With this, information must be easily stored and made accessible at any time to people who require them. The RTI law is neither a luxury nor a privilege. It will help journalists to do their work. Politicians must disabuse their minds they would lose exclusivity to certain vital information. Transparency in governance is vital for the development of any society. With the assert given to the law by President Akufo-Addo, there is no turning back.
Government must immediately settle to selecting members of the information commission. People who have the requisite expertise and are committed to respecting the rights of others must be chosen to man the positions. Intense campaign and awareness programmes must be embarked upon. Actualisation of the Right to Information law must be partialised. As we await the legislative instrument to the law, let us not expect too much but to focus our eyes on the ball so that realisation of the objectives of the law will not be a mirage. We doff our hats to all who contributed to making the Right to information law a reality. Let us keep hope alive, there is light at the end of the tunnel. It is said a journey of a thousand mile begins with a step.
Story by Justice Mingle, a Journalist.