In line with the requirements of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, government shall soon appoint a Commissioner of Information, Mr Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, the Minister of Information, has announced.
He said the appointment, which would be made before the end of October, is part of the road map for the implementation of the RTI Act.
Mr Oppong Nkrumah said this in a speech read on his behalf at a public forum held to deliberate on the topic: “Implementation of the RTI Law: How will Ghana’s be different?”
The forum, which was organised by the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), was also to mark this year’s International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI), which falls on September 28.
Since 2016, UNESCO marks 28 September as the IDUAI, following the adoption of the 38 C/Resolution 57 declaring 28 September of every year as IDUAI.
Mr Oppong Nkrumah said following the President’s assent to the RTI Bill, the Ministry has created a secretariat for the implementation process.
He said the Ministry has had previous engagements with stakeholders; right after the law was passed to put together an implementation road map, essentially to guide the process.
Mr Oppong Nkrumah said the road map includes the assessment and classification of existing information that is already held by the various public institutions, the need to set up information units and the need to have designated information officers to service these information units.
He said there is also the need for the capacity building and training of these information officers and record officers.
“We need to deploy the requisite infrastructure and logistics to service these information units and the records officers to create a seamless retrieval process when an application for information is put in,” Mr Oppong Nkrumah said.
He said the Ministry would soon come out with a publication of the information manual, which is vital with regards to Section 3 of the RTI Act; stating that “hopefully we can get this done by the end of the year”.
“We need to pilot the retrieval processes after the infrastructure and the logistics have been deployed to the public institutions across the country, especially with the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs).”
Mr Oppong Nkrumah said there is also the need to pilot these systems to ensure that there is a smooth retrieval process for information.
“We need to engage more with stakeholders, especially the judiciary and then we need to embark on public education to educate the public, especially on how they can assess information as laid down within the law,” he said.
Mr Oppong Nkrumah said the Ministry of Finance has committed funds to facilitate the smooth implementation of the roadmap for the RTI Act.
Mr Akoto Ampaw, a renowned legal practitioner, who delivered the keynote address, appealed to the President to appoint the Commissioner for Information based on merit.
He said to avoid compromising the implementation of the RTI law, the appointment of members of the Information Commission must be devoid of politics.
“Membership of that Commission is key because the first members of the Commission will be those who would ensure that the institution has a proper foundation. If we have people appointed by the President (to the Information Commission); who are there simply to do bidding of the President then, we going to have a huge problem.”
Madam Abigail Larbi Odei, the Programme Manager for Media, Good Governance and Democracy Programme, MFWA, said the implementation of the RTI law begins in 2020 and already there are frantic preparations to ensure a successful take-off in January.
She commended the RTI Coalition and other stakeholders for their tireless efforts.
“At the MFWA, we believe that an informed citizen is an empowered citizen. And for several years, we have implemented interventions for over 40 MMDAs that create and strengthen spaces for citizens and their local authorizes to engage and interact towards addressing critical local development issues and challenges,” she added.