Majority Leader Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu says the Right to Information (RTI) Bill cannot be passed this year as it will increase Ghana’s financial burdens.
According to him, aside from the fact that no financial allocation has made for the bill in the 2019 budget, public institutions and ministries would also have to set up information offices for the proper implementation of the bill which will require some time and money.
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.
This is despite 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 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.
“By next week, we should be able to conclude this and give ourselves some space. If we have 12 months, it will give the executives signals that we are only a year away to fix and operationalize it.”
Speaker slams CSOs for piling pressure to get RTI Bill passed
The Speaker of Parliament, Prof. Aaron Mike Oquaye, is not enthused about 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 being 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.
Sorry, the video player failed to load.(Error Code: 100013)
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.
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 honorable 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.