Kufuor lacked political will to pass information bill
The Ghana Coalition on Access to Information (ATI) on Friday expressed disappointment about the "lack of political will," by the former President John Agyekum Kufuor to pass the Right to Information (RTI) Bill.
The RTI Coalition has therefore challenged President John Evans Atta Mills' government to muster the political courage to pass the bill within the first 100 days in office.
A statement signed by Nana Oye Lithur, RTI Co-ordinator, said: "The past six years have shown a lack of political will by former President Kufuor's Government to deliver on its promise to pass the pending RTI Bill for Ghana.
"It is hoped that the new Government's promise of change that underpinned its campaign agenda will translate into substantial action on the Bill and counteract the complacency of the former government with respect to the expedient passage of the RTI Bill." The RTI Coalition reminded President Atta Mills of his promise to pass the long-awaited RTI law as part of his vision to strengthen the nation's democratic practice and combat corruption in public offices. Nana Oye Lithur said the fundamental Right to Information was a Constitutional Right guaranteed to all persons under Article 21 (1) (f) of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana.
She said to date Ghana still had no legislative framework providing for means and procedures to exercise the right to information. "In the absence of such a law, it means that the peoples' right to information is left at the mercy of government officials who withhold information in their custody from the public in disregard of the peoples' legal entitlement to such information." She said these practices in effect undermined the constitutionally cherished principles of democratic governance that represented the choice of governance in Ghana.
Nana Oye Lithur recounted that the Coalition, in the run-up to Election 2008, pressed for detailed and time-bound commitments for the passage of the RTI law from Presidential candidates. "This successfully resulted in the incorporation of such commitments in party manifestoes. The NDC manifesto specifically highlighted on page 24 that; 'The new NDC government shall enact into law the Freedom of Information Bill to facilitate access to official information, buttressing their commitment to disclosures'" The NDC Manifesto, like all other party manifestoes, was, however, silent on the timeframe as to when this commitment to pass the Bill would be fulfilled.
Given the history of government inaction on this issue, the Coalition has renewed its efforts to place freedom of information at the forefront of the political and social agenda. The Coalition called on the new Government to, as a matter of urgency, revise the FOI Bill in accordance with international human rights standards as a means to guarantee maximum disclosure of government-held information to the public.
This would further ensure the expedient passage of the Bill as a fundamental yardstick for the progressive realisation of the peoples' right to information in Ghana and a tool for strengthening the democratic values.
Nana Oye explained that the current Bill on the RTI was drafted by the Attorney-General's Department in 2003 with the aim of giving substance to the Constitutional provision by providing key steps for access to official information held by a government agency subject to the rights and freedoms of others and the public interest.