You are here: HomeNews2016 11 13Article 486425

General News of Sunday, 13 November 2016

Source: GNA

RTI Coalition dismayed over failure to pass bill

The Coalition on the Right to Information (RTI) has expressed displeasure over failure by Parliament to pass Ghana’s decades old Information Bill before going on recess.

The Coalition said the inaction of the House was ‘surprising and disappointing’ after various steps had been taken in the previous month by the Attorney General (AG) and the Parliamentary Select Committee to ensure that the Bill was passed in the last sitting.

In a statement copied to the Ghana News Agency, the Coalition said the move was a fall back on the commitment made by the Parliament to pass the RTI Bill into law in the second and third sittings of the House.

The Bill was revised and renamed the RTI Bill 2016 after it was incorporated with all proposed amendments by the AG and forwarded to Parliament for consideration following series of engagements with the AG and the leadership of the legislative body.

According to the Coalition, the AG subsequently requested Parliament that the Bill be considered under a Certificate of Urgency.

After being introduced to Parliament, the Coalition said, the new RTI Bill was rapidly referred to the Select Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs for their review and report, which was completed within a day and submitted to Parliament two days later.

“In Parliament, the consideration of the new Bill progressed speedily as the Bill saw 48 clauses considered in one day (Monday 31st October)”, it said, however, the momentum could not be sustained as the minority members of Parliament began to raise concerns over minor issues.

“Some of the issues raised included the lack of quorum, but the Coalition’s monitoring of the consideration process indicated that some other Bills including loan agreements were passed despite the lack of quorum”.

The Coalition noted that if the NDC government really wanted to pass the Bill, it could have used its majority in parliament to do so.

It also observed that a number of bills had been passed even when the numbers of lawmakers were short of quorum.

How come Parliament had the numbers to pass the Local Government Act and the Aids Commission’s Act but lacked the numbers to enable the passage of the RTI Bill, it quizzed.

“One would have thought that given the fact that the Bill has been revised and all amendments incorporated and presented as one document, Parliament would no longer have an excuse for delaying the passage of the Bill.

“It would appear, however, and sadly so, that the forces that are against the passage of the law are much more than the Coalition had thought.”

The Coalition said: “We would like to reiterate that the failure to pass the RTI law by the current Parliament is a missed opportunity for all Ghanaians, for the NDC government and the country at large. It is an indelible indictment on Parliament.

“We believe that this government still has an opportunity to redeem itself and the country’s ratings on international platforms - which government has noted is retrogressing due to the non-passage of the RTI law - by passing the RTI Bill before Parliament lapses in January 2017.

“We have noted with concern and indeed it is very worrying that anytime there is a need to put in place laws that will enhance citizens’ right to hold their leaders accountable, governments both past and present are often very reluctant to pass or even initiate such legislation.

“Civil society organisations would have to campaign, petition, protest, and sometimes coerce government for such laws to be enacted.

“The Coalition would like Ghanaians to judge from this over 13 years’ advocacy and failed promises by both the NPP (New Patriotic Party) and the NDC administration whether our politicians can be trusted.

“A Bill that managed to weather the storm under the NDC government and finally got to the final stages of Parliamentary processes twice, couldn’t be passed due to the lack of political will by Parliament to prioritize the consideration of the Bill.

“As a Coalition, we are completely disappointed over the non-passage of the Bill which we had every reason to expect would have been passed before the elections in December".