The Speaker of Parliament, Prof. Aaron Mike Oquaye has urged the joint committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary affairs to expedite work on the Right to Information Bill.
He made the call in his welcome address to the House on Tuesday.
According to Prof. Oquaye, there is the need for serious action on the Bill, especially in the current session.
“I assure you of my preparedness and that of the leadership to make your work easy during this meeting. I will appeal to the joint committees of Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary affairs and communications on who have already done a great deal of work during the recess on the Right to Information Bill 2018 to make a report as quickly as possible for us to deliberate on the law. I trust that we will be found worthy of our hire at the end of the session,” he said.
The Bill was referred to the House’s Joint Committees on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, and Communications just before the House went on recess amidst immense public pressure for a speedy passage.
Meanwhile, the Committee has agreed not to take the bill under a certificate of urgency due to the enormous public interest.
According to the Chairman of the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee of Parliament, Ben Abdallah Banda this is to ensure that MP’s do a thorough job of reviewing the Bill.
“When we met, the committee came to the agreement that given the interest that the public has in the Bill, we cannot take it under the certificate of urgency, and therefore the committee recommended to take it through the normal legislative process,” he said.
The right to information is a fundamental human right guaranteed by the country’s 1992 Constitution and recognised as a right under International Conventions on Human rights.
The bill as it has been drafted is to give substance to Article 21 (1) (f) of the Constitution which states that “All persons shall have the right to information subject to such qualifications and laws as are necessary for a democratic society.”
The back and forth
The Right to Information Bill was first drafted in 1999 under former president, Jerry John Rawlings.
Various advocacy groups emerged to press for the immediate passing of the bill into law in 2002 and reviewed in 2003, 2005 and 2007.
The National Democratic Congress (NDC) in its 2008 and 2012 election manifestos promised to ensure the Bill was passed. In 2010, it was presented to Parliament for consideration.
In 2011, the government signed unto the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Initiative with a commitment to pass the law. In November 2013, the Bill was formally laid before parliament.
Former Attorney General, Deputy Dominic Ayine in 2015, moved the Bill for second reading in Parliament. In October 2016, the Bill was withdrawn and replaced with a new one which was immediately laid.
Following the dissolution of the Sixth Parliament of the Fourth Republic and the swearing-in of new Parliament in January 2017, the Bill had to be re-laid by the new government before work commences on it.