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General News of Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Source: thefinderonline.com

RTI Bill: CSOs worried over conflicting information from Parliament


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Civil society groups pushing for the passage of the Right to Information (RTI) Bill, have called on parliament to immediately resume consideration of the Bill as members of the leadership of the house provide conflicting assurances about the passage of the bill into law.

The Media Coalition on RTI, OccupyGhana, and the Coalition on RTI, view the conflicting assurances as another sign of the lukewarm attitude demonstrated by the House towards the bill so far, a joint statement said.

While the Speaker, the Majority Leader and the Minority were emphatic that the bill will be passed into law before the end of this year, the First Deputy Speaker has indicated that the bill will be passed early next year.

On Monday, Vice-President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia shocked civil society organisations (CSOs) when he categorically stated that the bill will rather be passed at the parliamentary sitting next year.

RTI Bill to be passed next year – Dr Bawumia

Addressing a ceremony to commemorate International Anti-Corruption and Human Rights Day under the auspices of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Dr Bawumia revealed that discussions he has had with the First Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Joe Osei Owusu, confirm that about half of the proposed amendments to the bill have so far been considered by Parliament, and, hopefully, at its next sitting, the bill should get passed after being before the house since 2013.

“Parliament has also begun consideration to the Right to Information Bill, which has been before the house since 2013; the rationale for the bill is to give the right and access to official information being held by public institutions, private entities which perform public functions with public funds,” the Vice-President observed.

He added that “government has taken notice of the persistent effort by several advocacy groups to have the Right to Information (RTI) Bill passed”.

He said government is committed to having the RTI law to boost the fight against corruption.

“I just asked the Rt. Honourable 1st Deputy Speaker where we are because we keep asking for updates and he tells me they have considered about half of the amendments to the bill so far, so it looks like all things being equal, early in the next session of Parliament; he tells me this bill that has been sought after for the last 20 years, by the Grace of God and with your effort, we should see it passed,” he added.

Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu hints bill may enter 2019

The revelation ties in with what the Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, who also doubles as Majority Leader, hinted that if the bill was not passed before the end of this session, Parliament would definitely do so in the first two weeks of the next session.

The positions of First Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Joe Osei Owusu, and Majority Leader Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu contradict the firm assurances given by Speaker of Parliament Professor Aaron Mike Ocquaye and Minority Leader Haruna Iddrisu that the bill will be passed into law before the end of 2018.

Speaker says the Bill will be passed before end of 2018

On Monday, November 12, 2018, Speaker of Parliament Professor Aaron Mike Ocquaye gave the strongest indication that parliament would pass the RTI Bill into an Act by close of 2018.

Minority Leader says bill will be passed before end of 2018

Similarly, on November 30, 2018, Minority Leader Haruna Iddrisu also assured that the RTI Bill will be passed before 2018 comes to a close.

Parliament rises Friday, December 21

Parliament is expected to rise on Friday, December 21, 2018 for the Christmas break.

8 Sitting days left for Parliament to go on break

The CSOs observed that Parliament has only eight sitting days left to rise for the Christmas break.

RTI Bill never considered after budget presentation

According to the statement, ever since the Finance Minister presented the 2019 budget statement to the House on November 15, 2018, the RTI Bill has never come up for consideration.

“This means that after the budget, Parliament sat for 11 days without considering the RTI Bill,” it added.

Parliament sat for 27 days already

Between October 30 when the House resumed sitting and December 6, 2018, parliament has sat for 27 days.

The CSOs noted that out of this, the House considered the RTI Bill for just about 10 days, and on two separate occasions, the consideration ended abruptly because they could not form quorum.

Lack of quorum

Quorum means 92 Members of Parliament, which constitutes one-third of the 275 Members, are needed to consider a bill.

The statement observed that Parliament has relegated the RTI Bill to the background after the budget presentation and has focused on other issues.

38 Clauses considered so far

Parliament resumed work on the RTI Bill from clause seven and has done up to clause 38.

Out of this, a number of clauses have also been deferred for further consideration, and nothing has been heard about the deferred clauses till date.

“It is the candid view of the coalition that any attempt to delay the passage of the bill before the end of this year will be unfortunate and Parliament would be seen as treating the concerns of Ghanaians with contempt,” it stated.

The RTI Bill has passed through the first and second readings and is at the consideration stage, with 138 amendments, mostly substitution or deletion of words, proposed to be considered by the House.

Background

The object of the RTI Bill is to provide for the operationalisation of the constitutional right to information held by public and some private institutions, subject to exemptions that are necessary and consistent with the protection of public interest in a democratic society.

It also seeks to foster a culture of transparency and accountability in public affairs and to provide for related matters.

The RTI Bill was first drafted in 1999, reviewed in 2003, 2005 and 2007 but was only presented to Parliament in 2010. It was brought back to the Sixth Parliament but could not be passed till the expiration of that Parliament on January 6, 2016.

After months of waiting, the bill was laid in Parliament early this year (2018) by the Deputy Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Joseph Dindiok.

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