22 May 2019
OccupyGhana® Press Statement
OccupyGhana® Salutes all on the Presidential Assent to the Right to Information Act
OccupyGhana® is delighted at the news of the Presidential Assent to the Right to Information (“RTI”) Act on Tuesday, 21 May 2019, finally bringing the law into force. We are impressed at the urgency with which the President gave assent to the law, an indication of the importance given to this legislation, following 20 years of delay by previous governments.
The full implementation of this Act promises to provide a major milestone in the fight against corruption. OccupyGhana® calls on journalists, citizens and public servants to use the RTI Act as an effective tool in seeking greater transparency and accountability of public institutions.
There are powerful examples of ways in which similar laws in other countries have been effectively used to check corruption. For example, following the passage of the United Kingdom’s Freedom of Information Act, journalists used the law to expose details of fraudulent expenses claims by MPs. This led to the 2009 prosecution and jailing of 4 Members of Parliament, and widespread changes to the parliamentary expenses regime, and brought in a new era of UK parliamentary integrity. More recently, in 2018 in the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency Administrator resigned following the vigorous use of the Freedom of Information Act to reveal his infringement of ethical rules and longstanding norms that regulate the conduct of government officials. In Ghana, and even before the passage of this Act, OccupyGhana® and Citizen Ghana used the right to information under the Constitution to expose details of serious public procurement lapses in the Smarttys bus branding affair. Things can and must only get better.
We at OccupyGhana® call on journalists and concerned citizens to study the detail of the RTI Act, and familiarize ourselves on how to make effective requests for information. We call on the public to identify key issues in their communities and make focused and relevant requests for information. Information obtained should be used to take effective and fact-based action to address issues of national interest. This law should lead to a raising of the standard and quality of national debate on public interest matters.
The procedure for requesting for information is relatively straightforward and simple. A person must simply make the request in writing. The request needs to contain the necessary particulars to enable the information to be identified by the information officer in the public institution. The information officer will then take a decision and send a written notice to the applicant within fourteen days from the date of receipt of the application. A public institution may refuse access to information where the application is manifestly frivolous or vexatious. Where a person is aggrieved by a decision made on his or her application, the person may submit an application for internal review of that decision to the head of the public institution.
Many have bemoaned the fact that the Act will take time to come into force. The reality is that the Act will be in force in a mere 6 months’ time, and Ghanaians must be prepared for its implementation. It is particularly critical that public institutions and officials be ready to take up the challenge and respond transparently and timeously to requests for information, when they commence.
Finally, OccupyGhana® signals that the passage of the RTI Act should be a wake-up call for any and all public officials or citizens currently perpetrating acts of corruption against the State and hoping to go unnoticed. We call on you to desist from such corrupt activities, lest a well-placed request for information exposes your wrongdoing in the months to come. The RTI Act should be a deterrent against corruption across Ghana, heralding a new era of integrity and transparency that this law can bring about.
Yours, for God & Country,