The Africa Freedom of Information Centre joins the freedom of information advocates worldwide in congratulating Ghana over the passing of its Right to Information law.
This has come after about two decades of protracted talks and a number of changes at Osu Castle, the Presidential residence in Ghana, the Right to Information legislation has finally been passed by the house of Parliament.
The Right of Information is a fundamental human right; it’s a tool of democratic control over state institutions, thereby ensuring the enjoyment of all the other human rights.
Right to information is one of the keys to democracy. In instances where governments have allowed people to seek and receive public documents, it serves as a critical tool for fighting corruption, enabling citizens to fully participate in public life, making governments more efficient, and helping persons exercise their fundamental human rights.
The Bill, passed on March 27, 2019, now awaits presidential assent to be fully become recognized as law.
The objective of the Right to Information Bill is to provide for the operationalization of the constitutional right which is embedded in the Constitution. Article 21 (1) (f) of the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana provides that all persons shall have the right to information subject to such qualifications and laws as are necessary in a democratic society.
Once the law has come into force, it will enable citizens to hold the government accountable to ensure that there is a high level of transparency in the governance of the country. It will also ensure that the citizens have access to official information from public offices on request or without request.
Getting this law passed has not been an easy task and neither has it been a single man’s job. Civil Society and the media have been very instrumental in achieving this. The Media Coalition on Right to Information and other members have been very instrumental as they mounted pressure on parliament to have the Bill passed into law.
However, getting parliament to pass a law is one thing. The biggest challenge in most states usually comes at the implementation stage. Governments constantly fail or ignore to implement the law which in the end frustrates the citizens and civil society.
According to a report by the Research Department of Parliament in 2017, the implementation of the RTI Bill has been estimated to cost about GHc 750 million (in dollars) over five years. The report also stated that the cost will consist of a set-up of an RTI commission which shall serve as the oversight mechanism.
“We hope that the passage of the RTI law does not simply represent a symbolic gesture, but by the government effectively implementing ATI laws in practice. This is the sure way to ensuring citizen participation, transparency and accountability,” said Gilbert Sendugwa, the Executive Director of the Africa Freedom of Information Centre, upon receiving the news of the passage of ATI Bill in Ghana.