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01.10.2003 General News

Ministry launches implementation strategies on dissemination

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of bill

Accra, Oct. 1, GNA - Dr. Kwesi Jonah, a Fellow of the Institute of Economic Affairs on Wednesday appealed to government to re-consider the provisions relating to the prosecution of public officials who disclose classified information under the Right To Information Bill. He said officers should be sanctioned and not "criminalized" when they give out exempt information to ensure full benefits of the bill when passed into a law.

Dr. Jonah was speaking in Accra at a meeting organised by the Ministry of Information to outdoor its implementation strategies for the draft bill, which is yet to go before parliament.

The Right to Information Act, among other issues, provides for access to information to enable an individual to get personal information held by a government agency or private body.

Some exemptions to have access to information under the Bill, are information from the President, Vice President or Cabinet. Persons who willfully disclose exempt information, without authority commit an offence and are liable on summary conviction to imprisonment. Dr Jonah appealed to Parliament to pass the bill with dispatch by not allowing partisan politics and acrimony to characterize the debate, as was the case with the Health Insurance Bill.

He said the Right to Information Bill had its bases in the Fourth Republican Constitution and no government could conceal information if it was to have an enlightened population.

Mr Kofi Sekyiamah, Chief Director of the Information Ministry, said work had begun on public consultations on the bill with copies of the bill now available on the Internet.

He said the bill would assist in good governance, transparency and national development.

Mr Andrews Awuni, Deputy Minister of Information, said the goal of the government was to create a culture of transparency with the passage of the bill.

He said it was an opportunity for Ghanaians to participate in governance when the bill came into force and appealed to the media to assist in the dissemination of information on the bill.

Mr Henry Tackie, an Attorney said the bill would put an end to speculations, rumour and put public officials on their toes.

The Bill, a 43-page document, states among others that every person has the right to get information and the responsibility for the full and effective implementation of the Act would be the duty of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice.

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