RTI Bill, a camouflage to protect public officials?
Allow me to use your space to express my views on an issue that has been a bother personally and to some well meaning Ghanaians.
The Right to information Bill (RTI) which was finally passed into law on May 21 ,2019 makes Ghana 24 out of 54 countries in Africa to have that law.
The Act provides individuals and institutions with information about public officials and institutions. This act was compiled with lots of expertise because it was produced by a committee of legislatures who make the law, with most of them being legal practitioners.
This bill was subject to review by a group of Ghanaians who were championing this course before it was finally passed. It is commendable that after about two decades the bill which was before parliament has been passed.
I, however, think that the Act carries the following “weaknesses” and must be checked.
The appointment of the commission, that is looking at objectives of this Act which is to put our leaders on their toes in aspects of corruption, embezzlement, and immoral acts. Here is the case that all the members of the commission are appointed by the president according to section 48(2) ” The members of the Board shall be appointed by the president in accordance with article 70 of the Constitution ” which makes the effectiveness of the information officers questionable (ie. They will protect public officials and institutions).
Again, these officers are immune to any legal actions from anyone according to section 74(1)” An information officer is not liable to any action, claim, suit or demand whether criminal or civil for an omission or action taken by that information officer who, in the course of duty provides information to an applicant or in compliance with the provisions of this Act”. This in a way makes section 36 of this Act futile. Therefore making the commission officers fully protected as well as public officers and institutions.
Also, the protocols to get these information are too many. And even with that, your fate is with these officers who were appointed by that same person you want information about. This is because according to section 43 clause 2(d)” dismiss an application if it considers the application to be frivolous or vexatious ” and who determines the frivolousness, it is the commission?
I hope that some of these concerns which are not exhaustive would be addressed for an effective and fairly applicable law.
Level 300 student, Ghana Institute of Journalism