Government asked to address concerns of NGOs before passing Right to Information Bill

The Upper West Regional Branch of the Right to Information Coalition, has appealed to government to address concerns it had raised together with those by civil society organisations and individuals on the Right to Information Bill before its passage.

In a statement issued at Wa on Saturday, the Coalition said, failure by government to address the challenges identified in the draft bill, could cause  difficulties in its implementation when passed into law.

The Coalition explained that the issue of the kinds of information to be given out, fees to be paid for accessing information and the time frame for which information was to be sought for, must be given a second look.

“The term custodian used in the draft bill who is supposed to give out information is also vague and ambiguous, as it will be difficult for people to easily identify who that person is”, the statement said.

The Coalition again expressed worry that the custodian of information had powers to impose conditions on a person’s right to access information.

It therefore called on government to have a second look at the provision which it argued infringed on the laws of the land and the rights of the people as well as the objectives of the bill.

The statement said clause 4 “C” of the bill for instance seeks to give powers to the custodian of information to determine whether the applicant has provided sufficient details of the request upon which information could be granted.

It said the clause as it stood gave more room to government officials to either misuse or manipulate it and denied applicants information on the grounds that their applications did not provide the necessary details.

The Coalition, the statement said, was also of the view that the fees to be charged for accessing information should be minimal.

It said, there should also be provisions for the waiver of fees or applicants who are unable to pay the fee in the bill, while punitive clauses should be put in place to deal with custodians of information who denied people access to information arbitrarily.

“As it is now, custodian of information can willfully obstruct the flow of information or distort it and go free because there is no penalty to deal with such people.

“There is no protection for whistle blowers, who reveal corruption or mismanagement in government and that must be given due attention”, the Coalition added.

The Coalition suggested to government to appoint Public Information Officers to be responsible for receiving applications and ensuring that information sought for, were provided.

Source: GNA

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