It is somewhat ironic that as we celebrate 25 years of democracy in the Fourth Republic, the passage of the Right to Information bill (RTI) into law has travelled 22 years of drafts, reviews and stalemates – just to give an indication of the wishy-washy manner in which we have treated this democratic imperative.
The Executive arm of government first drafted the RTI Bill in 2002, and it was subsequently reviewed in 2003, 2005 and 2007 before finally being laid in Parliament in February 2010. Since then, the RTI bill has witnessed a series of failed promises to pass it from both the NDC and NPP.
Upon assumption to office in 2017, Vice President Alhaji Mahamudu Bawumia restated government’s commitment to facilitate passage of the RTI bill since it’s embedded in Section IV (c) of its 2016 manifesto.
On May 3rd of the same year, the Minister of Information, Mustapha Hamid, declared publicly that by July 2017 the bill would have been laid before Parliament; and on Independence Day this year (2018), the President again reiterated resolve in its passage before Parliament rises.
As Parliament rises before the Easter festivities, again we join the mass of Ghanaians to ask when the RTI bill will be passed. Is there a problem with the present bill, or is there need for a subsequent review? Ghanaians are wondering why politicians are not upfront about why the RTI bill is taking a lifetime to pass.
In the representative form of governance that we are practicing under the Fourth republican constitution, it is incumbent on elected officers to be forthright to the governed and allow themselves some public scrutiny to ensure their mandate is not being abused. And the best way to allow for scrutiny is to pass the RTI bill so that officialdom will not hide under clauses of secrecy and other analogous clauses to keep people in the dark.
We demand that the promises made be made good, and passage of the bill must not go beyond second quarter of the year. Any failure to lay the bill will expose the double-standards of elected officials – who sing one song before elections and sing another when elected.
Just as we have put in place a Special Prosecutor’s office to fight corruption, give the people access to information so that we can also scrutinise your actions. That should not be too much to ask for.