RTI and Ghana’s Commitment to the OGP

17 February 2015

By Ugonna Ukaigwe

The author leads the RTI Coalition in Ghana. The article, reprinted with permission, first appeared Feb. 16 on the website of Peace FM.

In September 2011, Ghana joined some 46 other countries around the world to sign unto the Open Government Partnership (OGP), an initiative that seeks to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency and accountability, enhance citizen’s participation and harness new technologies to strengthen governance.

Ghana’s involvement in this initiative was born out of the country’s zeal for the promotion of democratic governance, to wit; ensuring that governance systems and structures are transparent and accountable to the people; and that citizens are empowered to hold our governments accountable to commitments made in various international and regional platforms particularly when there are no sanctions for non-compliance?

Certainly, Ghana, because of its democratic credentials did not need an OGP commitment to pass an RTI law, all what is needed is just political will. Advocacy for the passage of the RTI Bill began in 2002 and thirteen years later, the advocacy is still on.

Is the RTI Bill a priority for Government? If the answer is in the affirmative, then how come Parliament is not being lobbied to ensure the speedy passage of the Bill? Why do we see other Bills being passed and yet the legislation that will ensure the effective implementation of other laws is yet to see the light of day.

Access to information legislation is a major tool in the fight against corruption. As an African leader has said, ‘the Freedom of Information Act promises to remove the aura of mystery and exclusion with which public servants clothe the ordinary operations of government and public institutions and manage public records and information’.

This practice where citizens have to put pressure on government to release information that is in the public interest will become a thing of the past if this law is in place. On page 3 of Daily Guide of Thursday, February 12th 2015, it was reported that the ranking member on Youths, Sports and Culture and a Member of Parliament for Atwima-Mponua, Mr. Isaac Kwame Asiamah informed Parliament that his committee had persisted that the Ministry should bring its budget for the AFCON for scrutiny but the Minister refused to do so.

Now if a Committee in Parliament had such difficulties accessing information that is of public interest, what will happen to the ordinary Ghanaian who has no political affiliation? The Minister has told us that he does not report to the tax payers but only to the President; meanwhile the Minister is paid with the tax payers’ money and football is an issue of public interest. Today it is the budget for the black stars; tomorrow it may be the salary of the President!

It is only an effective RTI legislation that will help to protect the integrity of our public institutions which is fast deteriorating.  Such legislation will enhance citizens’ participation in governance and facilitate the speedy delivery of social services particularly in the rural communities.

While we continue to commend Parliament for its due diligence in ensuring that the review processes are completed, we take this opportunity to call on them, first to prioritize discussions on the Bill and second, ensure a non-partisan debate on the RTI Bill, its amendment and passage before this session of Parliament ends in March.

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