Stakeholders pushing for the implementation of the Right to Information (RTI) Law have called on the government to avoid recruiting information officers on partisan lines.
They have also asked for the timely release of budgetary allocations to the Ministry of Information to set up the required structures for the effective implementation of the RTI regime.
The stakeholders, who shared their view with the Daily Graphic, include the President of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), Mr Roland Affail Monney; the Executive Director of the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), Mr Sulemana Braimah; and a leading member of the Media Coalition on the RTI, Mr Elvis Darko.
In separate interviews with the Daily Graphic, they converged on the facts that a transparent recruitment process for competent information officers, the provision of the right logistics and a robust public record system were critical to the successful implementation of the RTI Law.
Mr Monney stressed that any attempt to allow partisanship to cloud the appointment process of information commissioners and other officers would undermine the relevance of the RTI Law.
“The GJA believes that partisanship should have no role in the appointment of information commissioners and the other officials who will be key to the success of the RTI. We live in a country where everything is given political colouration, but we say that the RTI regime must be purged of any partisanship to make the public have confidence in the system,” he said.
He added that the implementation of the road map for the RTI and setting up of the structures needed to be done with urgency in the interest of the public rather than partisan considerations.
Mr Monney further underscored the need to put in place the required infrastructure and logistics for the RTI to be effective.
He called on the Information Ministry and other stakeholders to do more public education for citizens on the provisions of the RTI Law.
“The RTI is not made for the media as people think; it is for all citizens to know the provisions and be equipped to demand accountability from public institutions who are entrusted with our information. Journalists will benefit from it monumentally because it will help us have access to factual information and reduce speculations by some practitioners,” he said.
Media Coalition on RTI
A leading member of the Media Coalition on RTI, Mr Elvis Darko, called on the Ministry of Finance to prioritise the prompt release of the GH¢20 million budgetary allocation for effective implementation of the RTI Law.
He said the timely release of funds would help the Ministry of Information put in place the needed structures and recruit information officers to make the RTI regime a reality.
“The government dedicated GH¢20 million in the 2020 budget to the Information Ministry towards the implementation of the RTI Law. We are aware that the budget year just began, but we want the Finance Ministry to prioritise the release of that money to the Information Ministry to set up structures for the law to be carried through,” he said.
Mr Darko said although it was public knowledge that the government had begun some processes to set up the RTI Commission and build the capacity of the human resource needed for implementing the RTI Law, there were no clear timelines for achieving those milestones.
“We do not know when the RTI Commission will be set up and we don’t know when the recruitment process of the RTI officers will be complete. We also know the Information Ministry is doing some work on fixing the public record-keeping system, but we do not have updates on it as of now,” he said.
Mr Darko stressed that there was the urgent need to improve the public record-keeping system by ensuring robust mechanisms were put in place for storing information in the right form and format at public institutions.
For his part, Mr Braimah said building the right structures for effective implementation of the RTI Law was non-negotiable.
He also said the current state of infrastructure for implementing the law was not encouraging and needed to be given urgent attention.
“The law recommended a number of things to be done, principal among which is the setting up of the RTI Commission and appointment of information commissioners, but this has not been done, and this is serious because if you are refused information at a public institution and you go through internal appeal and not satisfied, the next port of call will be the RTI Commission,” he said.
Mr Braimah called on journalists in particular to take advantage of the RTI Law to improve on accountability reporting in the interest of national development.