Coalition calls for passage of Right to Information Bill
The African Regional Coordinator of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), Nana Oye Lithur has suggested that the promulgation of the right to information bill in the
country would strengthen democracy, enhance participatory development and reduce conflict of interests by public officials.
"It is a proven anti-corruption tool," she stated at the launch of a consolidated critique of the Right to Information Bill (RIB) in Accra and quoted Transparency International's annual Corruption Perceptions Index for 2003 to support her submission.
The critique compiled by the Coalition on the Right to Information Bill was to ensure that the final legislation reflects the spirit and letter of the Constitution to enhance access to information.
According to Nana Oye Lithur, corruption perception index report indicates that nine out of ten countries scoring best in anti-corruption measures had effective legislation enabling the public to have legitimate access government files.
In contrast, of the ten countries perceived to be the worst in terms of corruption, not even one had a functioning access to information regime. The right to information increases transparency by opening up public and private decision-making processes to scrutiny.
Nana Oye Lithur noted that the right to information is a
fundamental human right guaranteed by Article 21 (1) (f) of the 1992 Constitution. It underpins all other human rights and is essential for good governance, democracy and development.
"This constitutional provision states that all persons shall have a right to information in accordance to what is deemed necessary for a democratic society."
She identified four common problems that impede development and democracy in the country: inequality of power between government and the citizen; lack of accountability; impunity of politicians and public officials; and the exclusion of the public from participating in decisions that affect their lives.
She said a liberal right to information regime guaranteed by law provides one practical answer to Ghana search for deeper democracy and people centred development.
Right to information legislation within this context ensures the exercise of access to information, which is based on the two core concepts of the right and ability of the public to request for information and the duty of government to provide information, both proactively and on request.
Highlights of the critiques: right of access to information, which it noted, had not been balanced against the need to protect other existing rights and freedoms. Such restrictions the coalition recognises as exceptions to the basic principles that all information should be released and made
available to the public.
The Coalition also noted the lack of an effective and efficient mechanism to handle rejected information requests, "at present the bills assigns the task of dealing with appeals to the Sector Minister." The Coalition also expressed concern about the procedure for access
information, the fee regime, and limitations in terms of the scope of exceptions consumer protection and environmental protection and quality of records system in the country.
The Coalition noted that the bill is not in conformity with
national and international standards, which recognises full access to information as being part and package of an inalienable right, which in itself fulfils all other rights.