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Ghana RTI Coalition Summarizes Consultations

Source: Freedominfo.org

Date: 22 August 2011

The Right to Information Coalition-Ghana has listed the main criticisms of pending RTI legislation following a series of parliamentary consultations.

The consultations were marred by a lack of adequate notice, according to the Coalition statement Aug 19.  The sessions were held in the Volta, Eastern, Northern, Ashanti, Western and Greater Accra regions and according to the Coalition were attended by a cross section of the general public including the media, traditional and religious leaders, civil society, students, departmental heads, and many others.

The Coalition said some of the prominent issues raised by the participants, were:

  • The numerous and unreasonably long time extensions that are provided within the Bill. There were recommendations that the time lines be reduced.
  • The broad nature of the exemptions within the Bill. These should be narrowed down to what is necessary in order to protect the public interest.
  • Lack of an independent enforcement organ to monitor and enforce the provisions of the law. Recommendations were made that such an organ should be included or the function assigned to an already existing independent commission like the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice.
  • A cumbersome appeals process which would necessitate one making an appeal to the Supreme Court. It was felt that the Supreme Court is not easily accessible to majority of the people. 
  • The fees in the Bill are numerous and need to be reduced to the actual cost of reproduction of the information sought.
  • Private bodies should be included in the Bill. It was recommended that the law should cover those private bodies that carry out public functions; that are wholly or partly owned by government; those that are involved in extracting natural resources; and those that carry out activities which affect the rights of others.
  • Public education and training of government officials should be emphasized in the Bill.

The statement also documented concerns about the short notice, often only one day, provided about consultations, which left some participants to question how they could be expected to make meaningful contributions.