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18.03.2009 NDC News

NDC committed to pass RTI – Attorney-General


The Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mrs Betty Mould-Iddrisu on Wednesday reiterated government's commitment to the passage of the Right to Information Bill into law.

She said despite her ministry's lean budget for 2009 and the huge cost outlay in operating the law, the Ministry was still dedicated to placing the bill before Cabinet and later to Parliament.

Mrs. Mould-Iddrisu gave the assurance at a final consultation with members of the Coalition on the Right to Information in Ghana (CRIG) in Accra.

The Coalition on the Right to Information in Ghana is a network of civil society bodies and individuals that have spearheaded the campaign to promote increased transparency and accountability in public offices by calling upon government to pass the Right to Information (RTI) Bill.

She said with the passage of the RIB it would be difficult for a public officer to refuse any person the right to know.

She cautioned that despite the government's eagerness to make information available to the people the process came with a cost to the taxpayer.

She said even advance countries like the United Kingdom were still having problems implementing the RTI because of the costs involved.

Mrs Mould-Iddrisu cited the difficulty in getting documents from government institutions and agencies, which she described as the bane likely to hamper the operation of the law.

Mr Akoto Ampaw, a member of the Coalition who outlined its concerns called for the setting up of an independent Commission to ensure enforcement of the law in line with international best practice standard.

He said for a bill that was indented to protect the public overriding interest to access information from government offices, it was important to safeguard it from any potential manipulation by placing the oversight duty on the Attorney-General's office as the current bill sought to do.

He said there should be a maximum disclosure on information in order to have an effective freedom of the information law.

He said the current bill was weak on this point because of the numerous exemptions, which tended to impose upon the applicant the burden to prove that the benefits of disclosure should clearly outweigh the harm in non-disclosure.

Mr Ampaw also said the exemptions under the RTI only served as limitations on the exercise of a fundamental right in circumstances necessary for the protection of the public interest and the rights and freedoms of others.

He said international best practice recommended provision on proactive disclosure to obligate public authorities to be accountable for their decisions.

He said this would facilitate the peoples' right to know government dealings and demand accountability as the basic requirement for the right to information law.