President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has assented to the landmark Right to Information (RTI) Act that is expected to be the game-changer in the country’s governance, particularly with respect to information flow.
While the passage of the Act was hailed by many, particularly civil society groups and media professionals, government announced a deferment of its implementation until January next year due to financial constraints.
The Act was passed by parliament on March 26 after almost two decades of back and forth that saw it move in and out of parliament to enable several policy changes and amendments to be done.
Ahead of its passage, Nana Akufo-Addo promised to assent to the Act once it was passed and tabled before his desk in a move to demonstrate his commitment to the Act.
According to the President, the Act was brought to his office on May 20 and “ I felt that I should sign it in the plain view of the Ghanaian people, for you to know that this long-winding parliamentary process has finally come to an end.”
In a short remark to assent to the Act at the Flagstaff House in Accra Tuesday, Nana Akufo-Addo said the implementation of the law will boost the country’s good governance and the fight against graft.
“Properly applied, it will enhance the quality of our governance in the country and provide the critical tool in the fight against corruption in the next financial year i.e Jamauary 2020,” he assured the people of Ghana.
He said he was “very happy that this law has finally been passed” after exhaustive parliamentary processes.
“I want to congratulate the 7th Parliament for its courage, sense of responsibility and commitment to good governance in passing this significant piece of legislation,” the President added.
Nana Akufo-Addo explained the decision to defer implementation to January 2020 was to give the public treasury the opportunity to make the necessary allocations to enable the Act to be effective.
The object of the RTI Bill is to provide for the operationalisation of the constitutional right to information held by public and some private institutions, subject to exemptions that are necessary and consistent with the protection of public interest in a democratic society.
It also seeks to foster a culture of transparency and accountability in public affairs and to provide for related matters.
The RTI Bill was first drafted in 1999, reviewed in 2003, 2005 and 2007 but was only presented to Parliament in 2010. It was brought back to the Sixth Parliament but could not be passed till the expiration of that Parliament on January 6, 2016.
After months of waiting, the Bill was laid in Parliament early last year (2018) by the Deputy Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mr Joseph Dindiok.
On Thursday March 21, the Speaker of Parliament, Prof. Mike Oquaye ordered the removal of the RTI bill from parliament’s motion paper after a planned reading of the bill for the third time.
This was to enable Civil Society Organisations’ decision to make additional proposals to be inserted into the bill.
After the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee of Parliament had supposedly fine-tuned the Bill with stakeholders, it was finally laid before the House to go through the third reading on March 26.
Attracting less controversy from Majority and Minority MPs, the Bill was finally passed.