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Opinions of Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Columnist: Lungu, Prof.

Mahama Could Dismiss FOI Bill

Mr. Mahama Could Dismiss FOI Bill to Hide Information On Trucks Doled Out To His Bro!


By: Prof Lungu


We have written many essays on the yet to be enacted Freedom of Information (FOI) bill. Much of the work, including the F.O.I.B. song, is available on this and other portals (GhanaHero.com, included).

Therefore, we did not find it constructive reading that President Mahama has no expectation that there would be fundamental changes to the Ghana "media landscape" were the NDC to enact the FOI bill. (See "Information Bill won’t transform media landscape – Mahama", Ghanaweb, 11 October 2015).

Maybe!

Maybe the FOI bill won't "transform the media landscape".

Still, a strong FOI law would transform the government responsibility and accountability landscape and empower all entities, including the media and private individuals, if the law enacted is not a Mugabe-Type-Right-To-Information bill.

So, here is to Mr. Mahama and his attempted management of expectations with respect to the FOI bill for Ghanaians!

Against your so-so performance over the years, the FOI bill will surely mean nothing if you and Mr. Bagbin allow ministers to decide who gets what information, and they do not allow an independent commission (arbiter) as the sole/final authority, before the Supreme Court.

Against your so-so performance over the years, the FOI bill will surely mean nothing if the constitutional requirements for Asset Declaration by high level government officials and politicians is not effectively integrated into the FOI bill.

Against your so-so performance over the years, the FOI bill will surely mean nothing if the administrative and legal requirement of the National Anti-Corruption Plan (NACAP) is not strongly integrated into the FOI bill.

Against your so-so performance over the years, the FOI bill will surely mean nothing if the news media (and any person) cannot walk into the Ministry of Interior to request data and actually receive that data on such minor things as the number and monetary value of "high performance" government construction equipment doled out to your brother, when the transfers took place, under what procurement/administrative process, what other companies were considered before the equipment were turned over to your brother and why.

Without wasting more time on this one, we will present elements of our 20 February 2009 essay on this important subject titled, "Mills-Mahama Can’t Have Transformational Justice Before F.O.I.B".

News reports in 2009 led us to believe that the failure by the erstwhile NPP administration to enact the FOI bill for Ghana would hound its members and ex-ministers, including Mr. Kuffour, for a long time, even to death. In fact, we suspect strongly that Mr. Kuffour did not win the Mo Ibrahim award because he failed to lead the fight for passage of the FOI bill in Ghana.

So, take the case reported in 2008, of 300 “remand prisoners held illegally at Nsawam under the NPP,” even though the prisoner's warrants had expired. Mr. Joe Ghartey, then-Ghana's Attorney-General, made protestations that arrived more than 2 months late and a Ghana cedi short. You see, Mr. Ghartey at that time said that, “…facts are available to all who want to verify except those who do not want to accept the truth".

The question we had for Mr. Ghartey back then was, how was the ordinary person living in his hometown (Winneba), or Bimbilla in the north, how were they going to be able to “verify…(and)…accept the truth…” when those persons had no recourse to a FOI bill that he and the NPP government had failed to enact?

Then take the case of the “reported retrieval of 39 high-performance vehicles” from former NPP officials. Would it not have been a whole lot easier for all Ghanaians if persons living in the hometowns of Mr. Akuffo-Addo Danquah, Mr. Kan Dapaah, Ms. Ama Busia, Mr. Kwadwo Mpiani, Mr. O. B. Amuah, Mr. D.K. Osei, and the wife of Mr. Joe Ghartey, etc., could have written the Director, Estates & General Services Bureau, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to confirm or deny, when, what, how, by whom, and in what condition the 39-plus high-performance vehicles were delivered?

And so, today, we will reminded everyone of the "high performance" construction equipment worth over $8,000,000.00 recently doled out to Mr. Mahama's brother by show of a mere sheet of paper.

Our sense is, some individuals from the erstwhile-NPP government (and current NDC government, even) will keep government assets and resources illegally, for their private use. They will even create new ways to hide those assets because the average Ghanaian minding their day-to-day business, and even the media, have little recourse, today.

Just as it is predicted by the status quo, this works out very well for politicians like Mr. Ghartey, Mr. Mahama, and Mr. Bagbin.

Yep!

Worked out mighty fine for Joe Ghartey and the NPP honchos. Did you not hear about all those homes Mr. Kuffour divied-up between the "NPP family members"?

And, it is working out mighty fine too, for the NDC!

Therefore, Ghanaians should not take any of Mr. Mahama's words as “the truth” and "reality" on the FOI bill today, before a strong bill is seen actually enacted.

GHANAIANS DESERVE THE FOI PROCESS AND MECHANISM TO "SEEK AND VERIFY".

YES TO THE FOI BILL WHEN GOVERNMENT SHOWS PRECIOUS LITTLE PERFORMANCE THAT BENEFITS !

After all, was it not Mr. Alban Bagbin, the current Majority Leader, who told Ghanaians that the P/NDC government would swiftly pass the FOI bill if Ghanaians gave them another chance?

Well, do we need to remind Mr. Bagbin that Ghanaians have given the NDC more than one chance?

In conclusion, if Mr. Mahama's and his Parliament fail to enact a strong FOI bill for Ghana, or if they simply dismiss the bill, all of us can predict that Mr. Mahama and many other high level officials will be in a greater position to hide, even destroy, data. It could be data on jobs or trucks and other Ghana government property doled out to their brothers, sisters, party stalwarts, and business associates.

So, maybe, the FOI bill will not "transform the media landscape" in Ghana.

The FOI bill could however transform the government responsibility and accountability landscape for all entities, including the media and private individuals. But the law must be a lot better than a Robert Mugabe-Type-Right-To-Information bill.

IT IS THE FOI BILL, STRONG-AND-STUPID, GHANA!

So, where are you, sir, Mr. Bagbin?

Where are you, sir, Mr. Mahama?

Let's get the FOIB done for Ghana and show your are actually pickable!

So it goes, Ghana!


NOTES:
1. F.O.I.B. – Are You Pickable? Listen to the hit song. This 2008 hit song from Prof Lungu (http://www.ghanahero.com/the_cause.html) has proven that the NPP was clearly not pickable as they sat on the F.O.I.B. all those 8 years. Rather, the NPP chose to run Ghana’s affairs as if it were their personal property, choosing to promote darkness. As a result, Ghanaians showed them that they are a lot wiser. One only hopes that the NDC government knows FOI bill Lesson 101).

2. Visit www.GhanaHero.com/FOIB. Read Mo! Listen Mo! Learn Mo! Reflect Mo!


©Prof Lungu is Ghana-centered/Ghana-Proud.
Prof Lungu is based in Washington DC, USA.
Mr. Mahama Could Dismiss FOI Bill to Hide Information On Trucks Doled Out To His Bro!
Brought to you courtesy www.GhanaHero.com©11 Oct 15.