Government will pass RTI Bill into law this year – Minister

Rockson Ayine Bukari

Mr Rockson Ayine Bukari, Upper East Regional Minister has reiterated government’s preparedness to pass the Right to Information (RTI) bill into law this year.

He indicated that government was enthusiastic about getting the RTI working as it formed the foundation for which corruption and its related phenomenon could be drastically reduced to put Ghana’s   democracy on a sound footing.

He said the 1992 Constitution had provided for access to information by Ghanaians, to enable them participate fully in governance, and added that efforts were made over the years to empower citizens to actively participate to bring governance close to the people.

“The provision for freedom of the press and establishment of independent governance institutions like the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) and the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) were meant to protect citizens’ rights while educating them about public space for their participation in development,” he said.

Mr Bukari said this in a speech read on his behalf at a day’s workshop to sensitise Civil Society Organisations (CSO) on the RTI bill, organised by the RTI Action Campaign in collaboration with the Accountable Democratic Institutions and Systems Strengthening (ADISS) project.

It is a four-year United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funded project and implemented by the Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII), the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC) and Send-Ghana. 

The Minister said in spite of the progress made in protecting freedom of the press and democratic governance, issues of transparency and accountability of duty bearers still remained a challenge, and recalled that some media houses were slapped with fines for wronging individuals and institutions because of their reportage.

At the same time, the Minister noted that several allegations of corruption flood the airwaves every time and said “all these could be attributed to the lack of adequate information by the public from duty bearers.”

Mr Bukari said when the RTI bill was passed into law, it would ensure truthfulness and transparency in governance, and indicated that corruption would be reduced to the barest minimum.

According to him, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) had proved itself as the only political party that continued to expand the frontiers of democracy and freedom of speech in Ghana. “We repealed the criminal libel law that held press freedom, paving way for the establishment of vibrant media in the country,” he said.

The Minister said “I wish to strongly assure members of the RTI Coalition that the RTI will surely be passed into law this year. We are a government that believe in transparency and accountability and would have nothing to hide.”

Madam Ugonna Ukaigwe, the National Coordinator for the Sustainable Development Goals Platform, who advocated the need to pass the RTI bill into law, said it would help citizens to effectively enjoy the rights enshrined in Article 21 (f).

She said the RTI was a right an individual had to access information held by public institutions and agencies to fast track development, and added that “In developed countries, information is not in the custody of one person.”

Madam Ukaigwe who is a member of the RTI Coalition, said “we would like to take leadership by their word that the bill will be passed as they have promised us, and we hope that it will be passed soon.”

She urged the media to embark on massive public education on the need for the RTI, and said “It is what the media shows the public that the public sees.” 

Source: GNA

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