Mr Samuel Awuku Okudzeto, a member of the Council of State, has criticised the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) for conspiring to prevent the passage of the Right to Information (RTI) Bill into law.
He said the two major parties’ members of Parliament had dominated the Legislature for the past 25 years since the country returned to constitutional rule and, thus, described their actions as a “conspiracy theory” meant to deny Ghanaians access to critical information.
“None of the two political parties want transparency, otherwise they would all have ensured the passage of the RTI Law because all the countries around us have it,” he stated.
Mr Okudzeto, an astute lawyer and former Chairman of the Public Account Committee of Parliament, made the remarks when contributing to a discussion on transparency in petroleum resource management, during the presentation of the 2017 Petroleum Transparency and Accountability (P-TRAC) Index Report by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) in Accra, on Tuesday.
The RTI Bill has been in the shelves for almost 18 years.
He said the Members of Parliament had misconstrued the RTI Bill as a matter for the press, saying; “It is a complete misunderstanding of what that law is about, the law has nothing to do with the press”.
Mr Okudzeto said the right to information is the right of the citizens because the people voted them to Parliament and, therefore, had the right to know what is happening, and citizens must insist on the passage of the law.
“Now information in this country is secret that people hold to the chest and even when you write to a minister to enquire about something if you are lucky, you will get an acknowledgement,” he noted.
Mr Okudzeto said Parliament was supposed to build its capacity to scrutinise petroleum contracts in order to prevent corruption in the sector.
He stated that Parliament had the Public Account Committee, with the mandate to call institutions put in charge of the management of petroleum revenues for questioning and insists on doing the right thing.
Professor John Asafu-Adjaye, a Senior Research Fellow at the IEA, expressed worry about the country spending the petroleum revenues on so many projects, which failed to make the needed impact on the citizens.
He said petroleum revenues should be expended on projects that fit in with the national development goals, instead of spending them thinly on so many projects.
The IEA’s P-TRAC Index project, which started in 2011, provides quantitative indicators to track progress in the governance of the oil and gas sector aimed at promoting transparency and accountability in the sector.
According to the IEA, the methodology used for conducting the P-TRAC Index followed conventions proposed by the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and the World Bank’s Guide on Resource Revenue Transparency.
The Index was based on four aspects of the oil and gas value chain, namely; Revenue Transparency, Expenditure Transparency, Contract Transparency and Management of the Petroleum Funds.