June 13, 2018


The Chairman of the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Ben Abdullah Banda, has stated that “good governance requires active participation of all citizens in the governance of a country and one of the indisputable ways of achieving this is through a regime of rights to information”.

According to him, the right of citizens to public information is recognised globally as an integral part of human rights as evidenced by the various international conventions such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Right (1986).

The Member of Parliament for Offinso South stated these when he presented a joint Committee report by the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and Communications after the second reading of the Right To Information Bill, 2017.

Mr Abdallah noted that in Ghana, right to information is recognised as a fundamental human right under Article 21(1) (f) of the Constitution.

The provision he said confers on all persons in Ghana the right to public information, subject to such qualifications and laws as are necessary in a democratic society as a result of which various attempts have been made in the past to pass a Bill into law to give effect to this constitutional requirement.

According to the Joint Committee report, several memoranda on the Bill were received from some identifiable Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and the general public during deliberations at a day’s Public Forum held in order to enrich the Committee’s work.

“Mr Speaker, the Committee during its meetings observed that passing the RTI Bill into an Act will give the right to individuals to access information held by public and some private institutions, however it does not apply to information already held in archives, museums and libraries.” He indicated.

The Bill also details the procedure by which information held by certain private sector entities could be accessed whiles it made provision to allow for a Legislative Instrument to prescribe the scope of access to information.

The report noted that with the passage of the Bill, all public institutions, agencies and departments in the country would be mandated to compile and publish manuals containing their official information within twelve months from entry into force of the law.

It further stated that, “the manuals shall contain the list of departments or agencies under the public institutions and their responsibilities, types of information to be accessed free of charge or those to be subject to the payment of fees as well as contact details of their information officers”.

However, the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice would be required to issue guidelines for the preparation of the manuals.

This it said to ensure that public information is managed in an efficient manner in the implementation of the provisions of the Bill.

However, the Committee noted that, there already exists a legal framework for public information management in the Public Records and Archives Administration Act, 1997 (Act 535) and recommends to Parliament to be guided by same.

When it comes to fees and charges, the Committee took note of the fee regime provided under the Bill as a condition for Public information.

“As part of the conditions for the application for information, applicants would be required to pay a prescribed fee determined in accordance with the Fees and Charges (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2009 (Act 793). Further to this, each public institution would also be empowered to request an applicant to pay a deposit where the cost of reproducing the information is likely to exceed the cost of the application fee”. It stressed.

The report said, the fees collected are to be retained by the public institution to defray expenses incurred in the performance of their functions under the law.

But an application for the reproduction of personal information of applicants, request for information involving public interest and requests by persons with disability are exempted.

“Whilst the Committee appreciates the fact that the cost of processing applications must be borne by an applicant, it disagrees with the payment of application fees and deposits. This is because payment of both an application fee and reproduction fee may be a hindrance to the exercising of the constitutional right of some people to access information”. The report stated.

The Bill when passed into an Act will establish a Right To Information Commission as an independent entity to monitor the implementation of the right to information in Ghana.

By Christian Kpesese/ ghanamps.com