Ghana Parliament Adjourns Without Passing FOI Law

2 November 2012

Ghana recently held public meetings on its overdue national action plan as a member of the Open Government Partnership and is nearing creation of an open data portal, but parliament just adjourned without fulfilling the promise of  the ruling party to pass a right to information law.

The ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), Ghana’s new president and the recently deceased president said they supported an RTI law, but hearings were delayed, reports never materialized and meetings were not scheduled.

Similar delay was seen in connection with Ghana’s membership in the OGP. An action plan was due last April, but Ghana became one of four countries that did not fulfill that obligation.

In recent weeks, however, a series of three OGP consultations have been held around the country.

No Action on RTI Bill

Parliament in 2011 delayed holding consultations on the RTI bill, finally holding them last summer. A report on the consultations was to be generated, but it never came.

Supporters of RTI persistently campaigned for legislation with petitions and marches while simultaneously raising objections to the draft bill. The bill’s defects were outlined at a recent meeting of editors, according to an article by the official Ghana News Agency on remarks by Akoto Ampaw, a Steering Committee member for the Coalition on the Right to Information.

Parliament will to return on Dec. 17, after the general elections.

The NDC pledged during in the 2008 election campaign to pass an RTI law. The 2008 manifesto states: “The new NDC government shall enact into law the freedom of information Bill to facilitate access to official information.”

The Majority Leader in Parliament, Cletus Avoka, repeatedly said he would bring the bill up, but never did.

On Oct. 29 Parliament passed a tax amnesty bill, noted an article by Fatima Adam in The Chronicle.

OGP Forums Held

In the meantime, meetings about the OGP action plans were held.

One such forum, organized by the Public Sector Reform Secretariat (PSRS), was the final to be held across the country and “was attended by 30 participants from the Volta, Greater Accra, Central and Western Regions made up of Assembly members, Non-Governmental Organizations, other public officials as well as the media,” according to a GNA report.

“Mrs Ama Benyiwa-Doe, Central Regional Minister, said the forum was an important national assignment and that the decisions taken would have an impact on all saying everyone had to ensure its success,” the article said.  “Dr Kwesi Jonah, a consultant at the Institute of Democratic Governance (IDEC), said the OGP was an on-going, open-ended and open-to-all process and that every citizen has a duty to contribute to it.

Three such meetings had been planned, beginning Oct. 17, with a national workshop at the Accra International Conference Centre, on Nov. 7 to look at all reports from the three zones.

Officials were quoted as saying that the plan will be submitted to the OGP by December 2012 and the government will demonstrate progress in implementation by April 2013.

A 20-member National Steering Committee for OGP Ghana was inaugurated in August to plan, develop and implement Ghana’s Action Plan. The Public Sector Reform Secretariat serves as the secretariat for OGP-Ghana, with the support of the World Bank and in collaboration with the Institute of Democratic Governance, a civil society group to provide technical expertise and logistic support to the activities of the Steering Committee.

At an Oct. 17 consultation meeting, Kwesi Jonah, a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Democratic Governance, expressed dissatisfaction with government for not passing the promised RTI bill, GNA said.

Work on Open Data Portal Continues

U.S. government officials visited Ghana this week to provide technical support to the Ghana Open Data Initiative (GODI) project, according to information about a visit from two U.S. officials posted on the Ghana government website.

The “alpha” version of a new information portal is already up and running and the beta version would be launched on Nov. 15, the posting says. “The Beta version would have more than 80 government raw data from the ministries, departments and agencies that could be accessible by the public for analysis and re-use.

The full portal, with thousands of demand-focused data, will be launched at the end of the project phase of the initiative by December 2013.”

The GODI site now appears to be largely “under construction.”

A data journalism boot camp on how to use government data was held in Accra Oct. 24.

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