Right to Information Bill Mahama not committed to passage of legislation - Coalition

According to the Coalition, Mahama and his government have not shown much commitment to pushing the bill.

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President John Mahama

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The Coalition on the Right to Information (RTI), Ghana has criticized President John Mahama for not pushing hard enough to ensure the passage of the right to information bill.

According to the Coalition, Mahama and his government have not shown much commitment to pushing the bill.

President Mahama has been chosen to deliver the keynote address at the first International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI) on 26 September 2016.

President Mahama is scheduled to speak on Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions specifically elaborating on the role of media and access to information in promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, promoting access to justice for all and on building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

Read more: Parliament will pass RTI bill - Speaker assures

The event which is aimed at highlighting the key importance of Access to Information in the success of implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will bring other guest speakers including journalists, NGO workers, entrepreneurs, academics etc. to share their experience and ideas on eleven SDGs with emphasis on how access to information will help in achieving them.

The RTI Coalition believes that the selection of President Mahama to speak on such a day as the ‘IDUAI’ and on such a topic, even though ironic given that Ghana has failed for more than a decade to put in place an access to information legislation, presents an opportunity for the President to make concrete commitments on the passage of an effective and efficient RTI legislation before the current Parliament lapses in 2017.

More here: Parliament under pressure to pass Bill

The RTI Coalition, in a statement, said it “believes that the selection of President Mahama to speak on such a day as the IDUAI and on such a topic, even though ironic, given that Ghana has failed for more than a decade to put in place an access to information legislation, presents an opportunity for the president to make concrete commitments on the passage of an effective and efficient RTI legislation before the current parliament lapses in 2017”.

It said, “The Coalition would like to remind President Mahama that the progress to secure the review and passage of the RTI Bill since 2013, when H.E resubmitted the Bill before parliament, has been very slow. In June 2016, the consideration of the Bill was stalled due to the lack of political will by the current parliament to prioritise the consideration of the Bill as they promised.

See more: MPs divided over Clause 1 of Bill; say it will defeat its purpose

“As a Coalition, we are concerned that President Mahama has not demonstrated strong commitments to the passage of the RTI Bill despite his party’s commitment to same in their 2008 and 2012 manifestos. Being an election year, the failure by the sixth parliament to pass the Bill before its tenure lapses would mean that the process will have to commence all over again with the new government and the new parliament. As a result of this, the Coalition sent a petition to President Mahama through the Chief of Staff on August 18, 2016, asking him to deliver on his party’s previous manifesto promises on the RTI Bill. Till date, the Coalition has not received any response to the petition.

“It is interesting to read the NDC’s 2016 manifesto promising as part of its 2017-2021 commitments to ‘implement the Right to Information Bill when passed by Parliament, same promise that was made in 2012. However, the 2016 manifesto omitted the very relevant part of the 2012 manifesto on the passage of the Bill as follows: ‘The next NDC administration will…work with the legislature to prioritise the passage of the Freedom of Information Act’, meaning that government is not committed to engaging parliament to ensure the passage of the Bill before and even after the elections. Does this mean that Ghanaians should wait for another four years before this law is put in place? As the Co-Chair of Eminent persons on the SDGs and given that UNESCO’s celebration this year is focused on ‘powering sustainable development with public access to information’, shouldn’t the passage of an RTI law in His Excellency’s own country be a priority now?

“We would like (President Mahama) to know that Ghana as the beacon of democracy in Africa, as he emphasised at the recent UN General Assembly (UNGA), is behind in terms of promoting access to information for citizens to effectively participate in governance and make informed choices. Several other African countries including countries in transition have successfully passed the law. For example: South Sudan, Guinea, Niger, Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Togo, Nigeria, Rwanda and most recently Kenya and Tanzania to mention but a few, have all passed the law.”

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