A Ranking Member of the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, Inusah Fuseini has downplayed the possibility of the Right to Information (RTI) bill being passed before Friday when Parliament rises for recess.
He said the limited days available to the house makes it impossible for it to consider the bill even if it is filed under a certificate of urgency.
The Vice President, Dr. Mahamadu Bawumia, after increased agitations from civil society groups like the Right to Information Coalition, pushing for the passage of the Bill, announced on Monday that the revised version of the Right to Information Bill has been approved by Cabinet and forwarded to Parliament.
“Cabinet has given approval for the Right to Information Bill to be laid in Parliament for debate and approval because it is very critical that we pass the Right to Information Bill,” Dr. Bawumia stated during the Norway-Ghana Business and Investment Forum.
But according to Inusah Fuseini, who’s also the MP for Tamale Central, Parliament's outlined business for this week did not indicate that the bill will be laid before the house rises on Friday. He however did not rule out the possibility that it could be introduced to the house this week.
“There simply is no way [it can be passed in this session]. I can't see how we can work within 4 days to pass that bill into law. And you want a good product, you want the bill to stand the test of time. Let's just get the executive to lay the bill…. The most important is for the bill to be laid now in parliament so that we can take it through the normal legislative process. That will mean the next time we return to the house,” he said.
'We'll sit during recess'
Inusah Fuseini said the Committee has agreed to sit during Parliament's recess to consider the bill and prepare its report on it to ensure that it is immediately put before the house when it resumes.
“My committee has said that because of the importance of the bill, even if the executive delay in laying the bill we will be minded to sit during the recess to consider all the proprietary steps towards a report in parliament when we return,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Committee and New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member of Parliament for Offinso South Constituency, Ben Abdallah assured that the government will lay the bill before the house before Friday, March 23, 2018, when it rises to go on recess.
‘RTI will be passed by July 2018’
The Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu in November 2017 said parliament would finish work on the bill by the second meeting of the next session of the house which translates to July 2018.
Speaking at a training programme for journalists in Parliament, he said the 7th Parliament of the 4th Republic will surely work hard to pass the Bill.
The right to information is a fundamental human right guaranteed by the country's 1992 Constitution and recognized as a right under International Conventions on Human rights.
The bill as it has been drafted, is to give substance to Article 21 (1) (f) of the Constitution which states that “All persons shall have the right to information subject to such qualifications and laws as are necessary in a democratic society”.
The back and forth
The Right to Information Bill was first drafted in 1999 under the former president, Jerry John Rawlings. Various advocacy groups emerged to press for the immediate passing of the bill into law in 2002. The draft bill was reviewed in 2003, 2005 and 2007.
The National Democratic Congress (NDC) in its 2008 and 2012 election manifestos promised to ensure the bill is passed. In 2010, the bill was presented to Parliament for consideration.
In 2011, the government signed unto the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Initiative with a commitment to pass by the bill. In November 2013, the bill was formally laid before parliament.
Former Attorney General, Deputy Dominic Ayine in 2015, moved the bill for second reading in Parliament. In October 2016, the bill was withdrawn and a replaced with a new one which was immediately laid.
Following the dissolution of the Sixth Parliament of the Fourth Republic and the swearing-in of new Parliament in January 2017, the bill is no longer in parliament.