A Press Statement to mark International Day for Universal Access to Information
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday September 28, 2021
A PRESS STATEMENT TO MARK INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR UNIVERSAL ACCESS TO INFORMATION TUESDAY
The International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI), observed across the World on 28 September each year, is in recognition of the significance of access to information. The global theme for this year’s IDUAI – “Building Back Better with Access to Information” – seeks to highlight the importance of expanding access to information laws and their implementation worldwide to build back strong institutions for sustainable development. It also seeks to uphold the vision of information as a public good, as well as to strengthen international cooperation in the field of implementing the right to information as a fundamental right. Furthermore, the global discussions on “building back better” remain context adaptive to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Coalition on the Right to Information, Ghana (RTI Coalition) commends the Right to Information (RTI) Commission for rolling out very important activities to commemorate this year’s IDUAI in Ghana, and for institutionalizing an RTI Week.
“Building back better” as a country using RTI at such a crucial time, would take more than just a passive law. Since the implementation of the Right to Information Act, 2019 (Act 989) began in January 2020 after its passage and assent in May 2019, many Ghanaians have held high expectations of an era of free flow of information without any significant hindrance. These expectations however have not been met after more than 2 years of the passage of the Law.
For effective and efficient implementation of the RTI Act, there are pertinent fundamentals that should accompany it. Sadly, two major limitations have hindered the effective implementation of Act 989 in Ghana.
First is the delay of government to pass a fees regime that would guide the appropriate cost for the reproduction of information held by public institutions. This has caused some public institutions to charge fees for RTI requests at their discretion – a situation that gravely violates the spirit and letter of Act 989. The progressive ruling of the RTI Commission on the allowable fees to be charged by the Minerals Commission in response to a request for information was a commendable decision, as it sends a very important signal to all public institutions, without exception, to comply with the provisions of the RTI Act. A consistent Fees and Charges schedule will go a long way to save citizens from being at the mercy of public institutions. We therefore call on government to act swiftly on the matter.
Second is the absence of a Legislative Instrument (LI) to provide adequate and precise framework for the law. Without an LI to clarify and expand the provisions of the Act, interpretation of the law becomes a challenge therefore leaving the provisions of the Act at the mercy of unguided authority. We call on the RTI Commission to speed up the process on the LI development, as we call on all other stakeholders, including the Parliament of Ghana, to support its adoption.
We encourage all citizens and advocates to continue to exercise their fundamental right to information, as we look forward to a better story on RTI implementation in the coming years.
Issued by the Coalition on the Right to Information, Ghana
Contact the Coalition’s Secretariat (Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Africa Office) on 0269508889 or 0266862395