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Ghana

RTI (GH0015)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Ghana, Second Action Plan, 2015-2017

Action Plan Cycle: 2015

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: Ministry of Communications

Support Institution(s): Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), Coalition on the Rights to Information Bill (CRTI), Media Foundation for West Africa (MFA), National Media Commission, CHRI

Policy Areas

Right to Information

IRM Review

IRM Report: Ghana End-of-Term Report 2015-2017

Starred: No

Early Results: Did Not Change

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Under the first Action Plan 2013-2014, Government undertook to enact a Right to Information Law. However, the implementation of this commitment has not been realized. Government still recognizes the importance of unfettered access to information in contributing to stability in governance and therefore commits to passing the Right to Information Bill by December, 2016.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

2. Right to Information

Commitment Text:

Under the first Action Plan 2013-2014, Government undertook to enact a Right to Information Law. However, the implementation of this commitment has not been realized. Government still recognizes the importance of unfettered access to information in contributing to stability in governance and therefore commits to passing the Right to Information Bill by December, 2016.

·  Hold four (4) meetings with Parliament for the passage of the Right to Information Bill by June, 2016

·  Organize 10 regional public sensitization fora on the rights of citizens under the Right to Information Law by 2017

Editorial note: Milestone 2.2 was added to the table below to capture the commitment language that the “government…commits to passing the Right to Information Bill by December, 2016.”

Responsible institution: Ministry of Communications

Supporting institution(s): Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), Coalition on the Rights to Information Bill (CRTI), Media Foundation for West Africa (MFA), National Media Commission, Commonwealth Human Right Initiative (CHRI)

Start date:      June 2016                                        End date: December 2017

 

 

Context and objectives

This commitment aims to pass a freedom of information bill, which Ghana has been working on for the past decade and a half. This commitment was in the previous action plan but was not fulfilled. The previous Parliament 2009 to 2012 Parliament  asked stakeholders (individuals, CSOs, and academia) to submit their views on the bill. CSOs proposed revisions that included exemptions however Parliament’s term ended before they could complete their review of the bill. In May 2014, the then Parliamentary Committee on Legal, Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs, convened a forum at Koforidua for all stakeholders with concerns about the bill. The forum discussed each clause and considered proposals on the bill. Recommendations from the forum were forwarded to the Attorney-General’s Department for possible review and revision of the bill. CSOs that took part in the above process were happy their views were incorporated in the revised draft bill. One of the findings of the first IRM review: IRM (2015) Ghana Progress Report 2013–14

Even with a constitutional provision guaranteeing freedom of information, most public officials and state institutions determine when and at what time to provide information. Some institutions decline requests altogether despite the fact that the requested information may have no security implications and is readily accessible in other jurisdictions. The bill here is Right to Information Bill. “Pass The Right To Information Bill Now” access 21 September, 2016) available from: https://www.modernghana.com/news/656396/1/pass-the-right-to-information-bill-now.html  This bill provides for access to official information held by public institutions as well as private entities which perform public functions with public funds. The bill defines the qualifications and conditions under which access to information held by public institutions should be obtained. It establishes the Right to Information Commission to ensure independence of the review process. It also allows for the transfer of the appeal and review processes from the Right to Information Commission internal Information Review Officers to the High Court. “Pass The Right To Information Bill Now” access 21 September, 2016) available from: https://www.modernghana.com/news/656396/1/pass-the-right-to-information-bill-now.html

If passed and implemented, the Right to Information Bill could have a transformative potential in ensuring citizens’ right to information. CSOs believe that the Right to Information Bill will promote democratic participation, transparency and aid the fight against corruption. Please see: https://www.newsghana.com.gh/accounting-to-the-people-must-be-through-the-right-to-information-law/  Overall, the law would help ensure more transparency in the governance system. It could reduce corruption as the actions of various authorities are made subject to public scrutiny. ibid  

The Ministry of Communications (MOC) is the lead agency for this commitment and therefore responsible for all milestones. The first milestone did not mention the format or purpose of meetings in which the Ministry will engage Parliament. It is unclear whether the purpose of these meetings is to influence Parliament to expedite action on the bill or to assist Parliament to come to a consensus on the bill. If it is the former, then MOC is not the right institution to lead; rather CSOs, such as the Coalition on the Rights to Information Bill (CRTI) are better situated to play that advocacy role. CRTI played a role in the bill amendment before it was sent to Parliament. If, however, the goal is to build a consensus, it would be preferable for both CSOs and the Attorney Generals Department (AGD) to engage Parliament. CSOs that the researcher talked on this commitment in the first action plan said these were carried out in consultation with parliament   

The action to conduct sensitization forums on the rights of citizen under a right to information law is relevant in the sense that few people are aware of the content and the importance of such a Law. Greater awareness about the law will enable more people to know their rights and demand necessary information from institutions. When it comes to potential impact, the researcher ranked the milestone as moderate potential impact because expanded knowledge of the law will lead to more people demanding information from public institutions and opening up government.

Completion

Despite efforts by both the Executive and Parliament, the bill was not passed and hence the commitment saw limited completion.

President Mahama, the Speaker of Parliament and the Majority Leader expressed some commitment to the passage of the bill. In an interview with the President in October 2015, he stated, “It’s taken unduly long and my government is fast-tracking it as quickly as possible….” Group disagrees with President Mahama on RTI bill (access 21 September, 2016) available from  : http://www.graphic.com.gh/news/general-news/group-disagrees-with-president-mahama-on-rti-bill.html  In November 2015, the Majority Leader gave assurance that the bill would be passed in the first quarter of 2016. Right to Information Bill to be passed next year – Majority Leader (access 21 September, 2016) available from

: http://www.ghananewsagency.org/politics/right-to-information-bill-to-be-passed-next-year-majority-leader--96787  In August 2016, the Speaker of Parliament assured the public that Parliament is committed to passing the bill. Parliament will pass RTI bill - Speaker assures (access 21 September, 2016) available from: http://pulse.com.gh/news/right-to-information-bill-parliament-will-pass-rti-bill-speaker-assures-id5348768.html?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=pulse-ghana_web

According to the President, Cabinet had approved the bill and submitted it to Parliament in March 2016. Right To Information Bill Has Suffered Setbacks – President Mahama (access 21 September, 2016) available from : http://ghanapoliticsonline.com/right-information-bill-suffered-setbacks-president-mahama/  At the time, media reported that Members of Parliament (MPs) proposed a long list of amendments on the Bill for consideration. Ghana’s Parliament revives Right to Information Bill (access 21 September, 2016) available from: https://www.newsghana.com.gh/ghanas-parliament-revives-right-to-information-bill/  The IRM researcher followed up on the proposed amendments but CSOs working on the bill could not provide information on what these amendments were.

Meetings with Parliament: According to the respondent at MOC The IRM researcher talked to the staff at Ministry of Communications on 22 August, 2016 , the meetings were not held. The respondent at MOC was not clear about the type of meetings to be held. In addition, he said when a bill is in Parliament, it is exclusively for the Speaker and the Members of Parliament (MPs) to decide whom to engage; therefore, it is difficult to execute the first milestone when Parliament has not invited the ministry to discuss the Bill. According to the Parliament respondent, Parliament always carries out public consultation before a bill is passed into law; they invite public comment and invite the relevant stakeholders. The researcher contacted a team at the Research Department of Parliament on 26 September, 2016 and had an interview with them  

Pass the Bill: Parliament took action on the bill within the first part of the year, but it was not passed. According to a press statement by a group of CSOs:

In March 2016, Parliament began the consideration of the Bill with the proposed amendments by the Select Committee. Between March and June, 2016, Parliament was only able to consider 29 out of 157 clauses of amendments. Later parliament suspended the consideration of the RTI Bill without any particular reason and began consideration of other bills some of which have been passed.’ Accounting To The People Must Be Through The Right To Information Law (access 21 September, 2016) available from: : https://www.newsghana.com.gh/accounting-to-the-people-must-be-through-the-right-to-information-law/  

In August 2016, the CSOs then appealed to the president to pass the bill as early as possible.

The President has publicly attributed some of the delay to a failed consensus on what the scope of exemption should be. Group disagrees with President Mahama on RTI bill (access 21 September, 2016) available from: http://www.graphic.com.gh/news/general-news/group-disagrees-with-president-mahama-on-rti-bill.html  However, the Majority Leader says the delay is due to a lack of accommodation for MPs to work with CSOs and other stakeholders. Right to Information Bill to be passed next year – Majority Leader (access 21 September, 2016) available from: http://www.ghananewsagency.org/politics/right-to-information-bill-to-be-passed-next-year-majority-leader--96787  A ranking member of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee of Parliament said the bill has been delayed due to some technicalities, ambiguities, knotty clauses, some apprehensions and disagreements associated with some of its provisions. Right To Information Bill in limbo (access 21 September, 2016) available from: http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/Right-To-Information-Bill-in-limbo-455935

 A CSO respondent said that the big issue seems to be the lack of proper records keeping of government information. Meeting with the CSOs on oil and gas platform, 13 Sept. 2016.  According to him, the way public institutions manage and store information makes retrieval very difficult. As a result, the fear is that when the law is passed, due to the problems of poor records management, government institutions might not be able to release information and people will then resort to the courts which will create problems for government institutions.  

At the time of preparing this report, Parliament was on recess. When Parliament resumes in October 2016, it will be difficult for it to go through all the remaining clauses to pass the bill into law before the election campaigns commence in December 2016.

Regional Public Hearings: Since the government did not pass the bill, this milestone, aimed at dissemination activities, could not be completed.

Early Results (if any)

The Right to Information (RTI) bill has not been passed during the period of implementation under consideration.

Next Steps

The IRM researcher shares the views of civil society that the absence of the RTI law and the current delay in its passage means that Ghanaians will continue to struggle in their quest to effectively obtain information and hold their leaders accountable. To ensure passage of the bill into law, the government needs to consider expediting action on this bill. This commitment lacked clear activities on records management to provide a framework for institutions to manage information so that they might efficiently provide information when the law is passed. Should the government wish to include this commitment in the next action plan, it should offer effective steps for all institutions improve their records keeping.

To proceed on the bill, the IRM researcher is suggesting establishing a working group comprising MPs, CSO and other stakeholders to iron out some of the issues identified as “technicalities, ambiguities, knotty clauses and apprehensions concerning some of the provisions.” The Minister of Communications can work with the Select Committee in Parliament in charge of information to expedite action on the passage of the bill. 

IRM End of Term Status Summary

2. Right to Information

Commitment Text:

Under the first Action Plan 2013-2014, Government undertook to enact a Right to Information Law. However, the implementation of this commitment has not been realized. Government still recognizes the importance of unfettered access to information in contributing to stability in governance and therefore commits to passing the Right to Information Bill by December 2016.

  • Hold four meetings with Parliament for the passage of the Right to Information Bill by June 2016
  • Organize 10 regional public sensitization fora on the rights of citizens under the Right to Information Law by 2017

Editorial note: Milestone 2.2 was added to the table below to capture the commitment language that the “government…commits to passing the Right to Information Bill by December, 2016.”

Responsible Institution(s): Ministry of Communications

Supporting Institution(s): Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), Coalition on the Rights to Information Bill (CRTI), Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), National Media Commission, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)

Start Date: June 2016 End Date: December 2017

Commitment Aim:

This commitment aimed to intensify and conclude an 18-year-old process[1] and pass the Right to Information (RTI) Bill by December 2016. Passage of the bill would ease difficulties in obtaining official information held by public institutions as well as private entities that perform public functions with public funds. Other related specific milestones envisioned engagements between the Ministry of Communications, Parliament, and the holding of regional public hearings on the bill.

Status

Midterm: Limited

This commitment saw limited completion at midterm because despite efforts by the Executive, Parliament and civil society organizations (CSOs), the bill was not passed. There were reportedly no meetings with Parliament, according to a Ministry of Communications (MoC) respondent,[2] and it was not clear to the respondent or the IRM researcher what type of meetings were intended. A press statement by a group of CSOs reported that Parliament considered only 29 out of 157 clauses of amendments to the bill between March and June 2016, after which it suspended the consideration of the bill without stating any particular reason.[3] The regional public hearings intended as dissemination activities could not be held, since the government did not pass the bill. For more information, please see the 2015–17 IRM midterm report.

End-of-Term: Limited

The information in this section derives from interviews with the Right to Information (RTI) Bill Coalition, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, and media reports on the bill.

This commitment is marked as having limited completion because the bill did not pass in the reporting period, despite, as in the midterm, repeated assurances of commitment by the Executive. This fact would suggest that the government’s posture toward the bill has not altered under Ghana’s new leadership, and civil society actors who were interviewed were skeptical about it being passed, considering the events so far. Two unnamed CSO respondents stated that the government’s continued delay seems to stem from both uncertainty and apprehension about the bill.

At a Paris meeting in September 2016, then-President John Mahama said about the RTI Bill, “I believe it is something we should complete and make available so that people can have a legal basis for demanding information if there is reluctance to give information.”[4] CSOs criticized his administration for its last-minute rush to pass the bill before handing over power after failing to act on it for over four years.[5] According to a December 2016 statement by the RTI Coalition,[6] the Attorney General incorporated the outcomes of consultations with Parliament into a new draft bill and submitted it to parliament on 18 October 2016, requesting that it be considered under a Certificate of Urgency. The Select Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs reviewed the draft bill on 23 October 2016 and submitted it to Parliament on 25 October 2016. Minority members of Parliament objected that there was no quorum, subsequently stalling the passage of the bill.[7] Given the delay, and in light of the change of executive power in December 2016 and the formation of a new parliament, the RTI Bill 2017 was returned to the Cabinet, and must now be reintroduced to the legislature before it can be passed.

At the time of writing, the bill is supposedly still with the Cabinet. Speaking at a Transparency International meeting in Accra in February 2017, Vice President Dr. Mahamud Bawumia stated that the RTI Bill was one of several actions to be implemented by the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government in 2017.[8] President Akufo-Addo expressed similar sentiments at an Africa Open Data Conference in Accra in July 2017.[9] When the bill failed to pass in 2017, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Mr. Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu stated at a training session for journalists in early November 2017 that Parliament expected to finish work on the bill by the second meeting of its next session, anticipated to be around July 2018.[10] In an interview with the IRM researcher, the RTI Coalition expressed frustration at the lack of communication from the government on the bill. The Ministry of Information rebuffed the RTI Coalition’s request for updates, and the Attorney General put it on hold pending when the Cabinet concluded work on it. There is no known protocol governing how long bills can remain with the Cabinet. The RTI Coalition continues to pressure the government to pass the bill without further delay, buoyed by the speed with which the Office of the Special Prosecutor Bill became law.[11] The passage of the RTI Bill should continue to be a priority in the next action plan.

It is important to note that the new government split the former Ministry of Communications in two, creating a new Ministry of Information in January 2017, which is now responsible for all matters pertaining to the RTI Bill.[12]

Did It Open Government?

Access to Information: Did Not Change

This commitment aimed to increase transparency in governance and the ease of public access to official information by passing the RTI Bill, which had been pending for at least 15 years prior.

This goal was not achieved, as the RTI Bill was not passed and has been rescheduled for passage in mid-2018. Further, some CSOs had to lean on personal contacts to obtain certain public information, like District Assemblies’ Development Plans and Budgets, which should have been easily accessible from government sources.[13] One CSO respondent told the IRM researcher that CSOs are sometimes asked to buy copies of official documents from the government’s publisher—a practice that could create privileged access to public information by better-resourced CSOs. In another example, the IRM researcher was unable to access the Companies Act (revised) online or from CSO and government respondents.

Carried Forward?

This commitment is carried forward in the 2017–19 national action plan, with the added proviso that the Ministry of Information develop strategies to implement the RTI law by September 2018.[14]


[1] Abubakar Ibrahim, ‘Without RTI Special Prosecutor’s Office will be frustrated—Coalition,” Myjoyonline, 29 September 2017, https://bit.ly/2GJxYmw

[2] The IRM researcher talked to the staff at Ministry of Communications on 22 August 2016.

[3] “Accounting To The People Must Be Through The Right To Information Law,” NewsGhana, accessed 21 September 2016, https://www.newsghana.com.gh/accounting-to-the-people-must-be-through-the-right-to-information-law/

[4]“MFWA Welcomes Presidential Boost for RTI Passage in 2017,” Media Foundation for West Africa, 27 July 2017, http://www.mfwa.org/mfwa-welcomes-presidential-boost-for-rti-passage-in-2017/

[5] Ugonna Ukaigwe, “RTI: Missed opportunity for the 6th parliament, John Mahama,” Class FM, January 2017, http://m.classfmonline.com/1.11071165

[6] “RTI fiasco: Blame Mahama—Coalition,” Class FM online, undated, http://m.classfmonline.com/1.10668262

[7] Priscilla S. Djentuh, “The RTI Bill is needed to curb corruption in the country,” Daily Graphic, 26 December 2016, accessed 20 October 2017, https://bit.ly/2qloRS0

[8] Jonas Nyabor, “We’ll pass RTI Bill this year – Bawumia,” 2 February 2017, citifmonline, http://citifmonline.com/2017/02/02/well-pass-rti-bill-this-year-bawumia/

[9] Jonas Nyabor, “Pass RTI Bill urgently as done for Special Prosecutor Bill – Coalition,” citifmonline,

21 November 2017, http://citifmonline.com/2017/11/21/pass-rti-bill-urgently-as-done-for-special-prosecutor-bill-coalition/

[10] Duke Mensah Opoku, “July 2018 latest target for passage of RTI Bill,” citifmonline, 2 November 2017, http://citifmonline.com/2017/11/02/july-2018-latest-target-for-passage-of-rti-bill/

[11] Jonas Nyabor, “Pass RTI Bill urgently as done for Special Prosecutor Bill – Coalition,” citifmonline,

21 November 2017, http://citifmonline.com/2017/11/21/pass-rti-bill-urgently-as-done-for-special-prosecutor-bill-coalition/

[12] Ministry of Communications interview by IRM researcher, 24 November 2017.
See also Gideon Ahenkorah, “Information Minister justifies deputy ministerial appointments,” Ghana News Agency, 16 March 2017, https://bit.ly/2kcqIoa
and “NDC cries over government size,” Daily Guide, 20 April 2017, https://bit.ly/2qmBYm9

[13] PenPlusBytes interview by IRM researcher, 22 December 2017.

[14] Ghana National Action Plan 2017–2019, October 2017, page 8. https://www.opengovpartnership.org/documents/ghana-action-plan-2017-2019


Ghana's Commitments

  1. Open Contracting and Contract Monitoring

    GH0020, 2017, Infrastructure & Transport

  2. Anti-Corruption Transparency

    GH0021, 2017, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  3. Beneficial Ownership

    GH0022, 2017, Beneficial Ownership

  4. Fiscal Transparency and Accountability

    GH0023, 2017, Fiscal Transparency

  5. Extractives Sector Transparency

    GH0024, 2017, Extractive Industries

  6. Right to Information

    GH0025, 2017, Legislation & Regulation

  7. Civic Participation and Accountability

    GH0026, 2017, Fiscal Transparency

  8. Technology and Innovation

    GH0027, 2017, Capacity Building

  9. Starred commitment Open Contracting

    GH0014, 2015, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  10. RTI

    GH0015, 2015, Right to Information

  11. Citizen’S Participation

    GH0016, 2015, Public Participation

  12. Fiscal Openness

    GH0017, 2015, Legislation & Regulation

  13. Starred commitment Revenue Management

    GH0018, 2015, Legislation & Regulation

  14. Open Data

    GH0019, 2015, Open Data

  15. Fiscal Responsibility

    GH0001, 2013, Legislation & Regulation

  16. Fiscal Transparency

    GH0002, 2013, Capacity Building

  17. Right to Information

    GH0003, 2013, Capacity Building

  18. Human Rights and Anti-Corruption

    GH0004, 2013, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  19. Extractive Sector Revenue Management

    GH0005, 2013, Extractive Industries

  20. Investment Oversight

    GH0006, 2013, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  21. Citizen Participation

    GH0007, 2013, Capacity Building

  22. Code of Conduct Bill

    GH0008, 2013, Asset Disclosure

  23. Audit Reports

    GH0009, 2013, Audits and Controls

  24. National Broadcasting

    GH0010, 2013, Civic Space

  25. e-Immigration

    GH0011, 2013, Citizenship and Immigration

  26. Financial Management

    GH0012, 2013, Citizenship and Immigration

  27. Starred commitment Policy Portal

    GH0013, 2013, Citizenship and Immigration