Amnesty International, Right to Information-Ghana Coalition build partnership
The Coalition on the Right to Information-Ghana (RTI) on Wednesday held an advocacy meeting with Amnesty International Ghana (AIG) to strengthen partnership towards enhancing the swift passage of the Right To Information Bill which has been laid in parliament for more than a year.
Mr Francis Ameyibor, RTI Project Coordinator, said the meeting was necessary as it had offered the Coalition an opportunity to promote more collaboration with Amnesty International to help educate the public on the RTI bill.
He explained that in a democratic system of governance the government was run for the benefit of the public at large and not for the benefit of one person or a few persons.
“People have a right to know what the government is doing. A Right to Information is therefore necessary to ensure that people can hold public bodies and officials accountable on a regular basis,” he said.
The RTI Project Coordinator said since most of the governmental work was carried out for the people…”people must be involved in the planning process and must know exactly how things are being done.
“To participate in the planning processes and to judge whether certain plans and schemes are useful for them or not, people must have sufficient information about the nature of the projects and programmes proposed by the government.
“This will enable them to give their opinion well in time for required changes or modifications to reduce project costs and increase project outputs manifold”.
Mr Ameyibor said the role of Amnesty International in upholding governments accountable and championing transparency in governance would be greatly enhanced with the passage of the bill.
He said “there is a presumption that everything that is done by the government is done for the public good which means, it is done to further the objective of public wellbeing and is done honestly with optimum benefits from the funds used.
“It is essential that there should be complete transparency in all-public dealings. This is bound to bring about a more careful utilisation and application of funds.
“Transparency in government functioning would go a long way in helping to expose the corrupt and allowing the honest to do their jobs without fear or favour.
Mr Ameyibor said the law must cast a positive duty on public bodies to inform the public in case of certain projects and activities that related to the public; and the law must contain a provision for timely imparting of information.
“The time limit should be reasonable and should not jeopardise a person’s rights. Time limits should be set in order of urgency and accessibility. Information regarding a person’s life and liberty should be made available forthwith or within the shortest possible time, such as within 48 hours.
“The law must take into account the protection of an individual’s privacy. Personal information held by the government must be exempt from disclosure. However, if the public interest in disclosure in the public interest greatly outweighs the preservation of individual privacy, then disclosure should be allowed,” he said.
Mr Ameyibor said the law must also contain a mandatory procedure for publicising its contents, stressing “often, laws are passed without their knowledge percolating down without sufficient speed or impact and therefore fail to bring about the desired change in the systems.
“The Right to Information law must also contain a strong aspect of training and orientation of public servants at all levels, in order to bring about an effective change in the culture”.
Mr Lawrence Amesu, Country Director, AIG said the passage of the bill was crucial to championing the course of the citizenry regarding information access in the country, adding that it would enhance the participation of people in the democratic process for optimum transparency and accountability.
He stated that AIG was willing to partner with RTI to engage the media and other stakeholders to sensitise the public on the need for the passage of the bill and the benefits it would offer the country as a whole.
The Right to Information Bill was laid before parliament in February 2010.