'RTI Coalition Not Responsible For Delay In RTI Bill Passage'
THE RIGHT-TO-INFORMATION (RTI) Coalition has rebuffed the assertion made by the Majority Leader of Parliament, Cletus Avoka, that the coalition is responsible for the delay in the passage of the Right-To-Information Bill.
The coalition said it has provided the needed support to Parliament to facilitate the passage of the bill, a fundamental human right of the citizens of Ghana.
'The coalition finds it regrettable that the majority leader is blaming the coalition for Parliament's delay in passing the bill,' a statement issued in Accra said.
The majority leader blamed the coalition when he responded to some concerns raised after he made a pronouncement that the Petroleum Revenue and Commission Bills were of priority than the RTI Bill.
Mr. Avoka stated that the coalition had delayed in submitting its proposals for the relevant clauses in the bill adding, that had partly grounded the work of Parliament.
However, the coalition has expressed contrary opinions. It noted that it was committed to seeing the bill passed without any delay. Additionally, it had indicated that it was working to ensure that the bill met international standards and best practices, enhances transparency, accountability and open government.
Nana Oye Lithur, convener of the RTI coalition, who read the statement, said there was ample evidence to show that the coalition had consistently provided technical and other support to Parliament and all the relevant stakeholders throughout the RTI bill's legislative process.
'Since the process began in 2003, the RTI coalition has supported it at the Attorney General's department level. Also, it gave its support when it was submitted to Cabinet for consideration, adoption and subsequently to Parliament,' she said.
Mrs. Lithur added that the coalition also submitted a detailed memorandum on the bill to Parliament in April 2010, which was followed by the distribution of two hundred and thirty copies of the coalition's publication containing a clause-by-clause commentary on the RTI Bill to all members of Parliament in the same year.
'The coalition has been able to reach out to all the two hundred and thirty members of Ghana's parliament through the distribution of the RTI educational materials and have had personal interaction with 150 members of the parliament on the RTI Bill through our advocacy activities,' she said.
Mrs. Lithur said the coalition, with support from the World Bank, prepared and forwarded an expert opinion on the bill to Parliament on May 21, 2012, and made available to the majority and minority leaders, and members of the joint committee.
She therefore urged the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Communication and Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to expedite action on its report for submission to the house for consideration and adoption.
'We offer our full support and pledge to cooperate with Parliament to ensure that the Right-to-Information Bill is passed before the 5 th Parliament of the Republic of Ghana elapses on 7 th January 2013,' she said.
Akoto Ampaw, a legal practitioner and member of the coalition, commenting on the state of the bill, said there were certain clauses that must be looked at for their negative aspect to be taken out.
Currently, the time line provided in the bill is 150 days where a request could be made and a reply given.
He also called for the appointment of the independent information commission members to be devoid of politicians, while appeals are taken to a designated senior officer that the minister will provide in the bill.
Mr. Ampaw also called for the law to be extended to certain categories of private bodies whose activities directly affect the citizens of Ghana.
By Jamila Akweley Okertchiri