Coalition praises court ruling on Smartyy’s contract

metro-mass-mahama-busThe Coalition on the Right to Information (RTI) has welcomed the Human Rights Court’s directive to the Attorney General and the Ministry of Transport to provide appropriate information on the rebranding of the 116 buses saga.

Citizen Ghana Movement, a pressure group, took the Attorney General to court to compel them to make public circumstances that led government to pay more than GH₵3 million for decorating public transport buses.

The High Court presided over by His Lordship Anthony K. Yeboah on April 13 ordered the two bodies to furnish applicants in the suit with all the requisite documents on the bus rebranding saga under the Smartyy’s Management and Productions company contract.

The Coalition in a statement to the Ghana News Agency hailed the ruling as relevant and a bold step that buttressed the need for authorities to quickly pass into law the Right to Information Bill that has been on the table for over a decade.

It applauded the Citizen Ghana Movement for backing the RTI advocacy by taking the bold step to initiate the suit saying, “The RTI Coalition believes that the judgment is a victory for Ghanaians and for citizens’ right to access information.

The statement said “the Coalition is fully aware and has always been of the view that citizens have a right to access information and this right is primarily inherent in the person as a human being and is also a constitutional right”.

It said a Right to Information legislation provided the various mechanisms by which citizens, and indeed, all persons can easily enjoy the constitutional right to access information.

The statement said while one did not need an RTI legislation to be able to go to court to enforce the right, however, without the Right to Information law, the court becomes the only option for Ghanaians, including the less privileged and indigent.

It said: “This in itself is a deterrent because access to justice comes with huge financial implications in addition to the delays associated with the justice delivery system.

“Given the time sensitive nature of most information requests, where court litigation is left as the only option, what may happen is that the information may no longer be relevant or even available after judgement is delivered,” the statement said.

It warned that any delay in the court proceedings may provide an opportunity for such sensitive information to be tampered with or destroyed adding that with the RTI Law, citizens would have a hierarchy of administrative procedures to follow when a request is denied.

The statement said such legislation also requires public institutions to proactively disclose information and itemize the kind of information that ought to be proactively disclosed and this is lacking in the current judgement.

It said while the Bus Branding judgment addressed the issues brought before the court which is the disclosure of information relating to the branding of the BRT buses, it did not address the mechanics of accessing information generally from public institutions.

It said “while we commend the High Court for this ground breaking decision, we wish to urge our Parliamentarians to speed up the consideration processes for the passage of the RTI Bill and to pass the Bill, with the critical amendments proposed by the Select Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs before November 2016.

Source: GNA

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