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General News of Monday, 4 February 2019


CSOs to meet Parliament over delay in passage of RTI Bill

Three groups campaigning for the passage of the Right to Information (RTI) Bill intend to put more pressure on the legislature to pass the Bill.

Jointly called ‘The Coalition, the group consists of the Right to Information Coalition, the Media Coalition on RTI and OccupyGhana.

The group have therefore decided to meet the leadership of the House about some clauses following the review of the Bill which is currently at the second stage of consideration.

The recent delay of the passage of the Bill is due to the contention the period of operationalization.

Some want the Bill to be operationalized within 12 months of passage while others want it done as soon as it is passed.

The RTI Bill has been in Parliament for close to two decades but is yet to be passed despite calls from the media and civil society groups

“The Right to Information Coalition, the Media Coalition on RTI and OccupyGhana will be requesting a meeting with the Majority and Minority Leaders, as well as the Leadership of the Joint Committee to provide more details on some of the clauses following the technical review and to impress on the House to exercise its power of a Second Consideration Stage in respect of the specific clauses as allowed under Order 130 of the Standing Orders of Parliament.”

“We have also taken notice of the Rt. Hon. Speaker’s ruling to have the Attorney-General present the position of the Executive on this proposed amendment by Tuesday 5th February 2019, we will be observing this with keen interest, especially when this date falls on the 9th-anniversary date of the presentation of the first RTI Bill to Parliament in 2010, the statement added.

Parliament to finalize RTI bill discussions next week – Majority Leader

Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu is hopeful Parliament will conclude discussions on the Right to Information (RTI) Bill by next week.

This follows assurances by the Speaker of Parliament who set the end of February 2019 as a new deadline for the passage of Bill which is currently at its consideration stage.

But Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu justified the delay in the passage of the bill saying, Parliament has the powers to postpone the approval of any Bill if there is a good reason to do so.

“Parliament has the power to postpone the implementation of any legislation that is looking at the circumstances. This RTI is going to have new financial handling; the 2019 budget did not make any provision for it. The government needs to put its house together. We need to have information offices in all the Ministries, Departments, Agencies and public offices. It comes with huge financial implications. The plenary powers of parliament to postpone the operations of any law for good course is recognized by the constitution.”

The Minister of Parliamentary Affairs is however optimistic that the challenges will be addressed soon.

Decide by Tuesday when RTI Bill should function after passage – Parliament to Executive

The Speaker of Parliament, Professor Mike Oquaye, last week gave the Executive arm of government till Tuesday, February 5, to advise the House on when the long-awaited Right To Information Bill should take effect as a law, to aid its smooth implementation after passage.

“We will give the Executive appropriate time up to Tuesday to dialogue with this honourable house and consider whether they are in a position to enforce this immediately or not.”

“And I know the Executive will take very good consideration of the matter. Therefore, list the matter for Tuesday so that honourable learned Attorney General will advise us either in writing or in person so that we conclude this matter to the satisfaction of our people as a whole,” he added.

Speaker slams CSOs for piling pressure to get RTI Bill passed

The Speaker of Parliament, Prof. Aaron Mike Oquaye, had earlier condemned the approach of some Civil Society Organizations in campaigning for the passage of the Right to Information Bill.

He indicated that the conduct of some institutions was creating an impression that Parliament was lackadaisical in passing the RTI bill.

He said such assumptions and impressions created by the organizations were false and needed to be corrected.

According to him, Parliament, on the contrary, has been working hard to get the bill passed and is sure to finish its work by the end of February 2019.

“While Parliament is still working hard to pass the RTI bill, certain persons and institutions are acting as if we are drooling off on the bill. This is fallacious, and I will be glad if the media will seriously correct this misimpression. The bill has seen several years and several parliaments, and it is tricky in many ways,” he said.

The back and forth

The Right to Information Bill was first drafted in 1999 under former president, Jerry John Rawlings.

Various advocacy groups emerged to press for the immediate passing of the bill into law in 2002, but it was reviewed in 2003, 2005 and 2007.

The National Democratic Congress (NDC) in its 2008 and 2012 election manifestos promised to ensure the Bill was passed. In 2010, it was presented to Parliament for consideration.

In 2011, the government signed unto the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Initiative with a commitment to pass the law. In November 2013, the Bill was formally laid before parliament.

Former Deputy Attorney General, Dominic Ayine in 2015, moved the Bill for second reading in Parliament. In October 2016, the Bill was withdrawn and replaced with a new one which was immediately laid.

Following the dissolution of the Sixth Parliament of the Fourth Republic and the swearing-in of the new Parliament in January 2017, the Bill had to be re-laid by the new government before work commenced on it.