23Mar

RTI Bill To Be Laid Friday Before Parliament Rises – Majority Leader

After months of waiting, the Right to Information Bill (RTI) will be laid in Parliament on Friday, March 23, 2018, the Majority Leader, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, has disclosed.

He was quick to add that the Bill could not be passed under a certificate of urgency during the current meeting which ends Friday.

He gave the assurance that the bill would certainly be passed during the next meeting which begins in May and ends in July, 2018.

Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu dropped the hint in an interview with journalists in Accra on Thursday.

The members of the Parliamentary Press Corps, who conducted the interviews, were in T-shirts with the inscription: “Pass the RTI Bill Now -The Countdown is on.”

The RTI Bill was first drafted in 1999, reviewed in 2003, 2005 and 2007 but was only presented to Parliament in 2010. It was brought back to the Sixth Parliament but could not be passed till the expiration of that Parliament on January 6, 2016.

Calls for the passage of the RTI Bill has been intensified recently with a demonstration by a group last Monday, demanding the passage of the bill.

Cabinet approval

Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, who is a member of Cabinet, said a Cabinet committee had looked at the bill.

He said the whole Cabinet would met yesterday at 3:pm to finalise discussion on the bill.

The Majority Leader said if the Cabinet gave the clearance for the bill, it would be taken to the Assembly Press for gazetting.

Thereafter, he said, the bill would be laid in Parliament, and the Speaker of Parliament would possibly refer it to the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs for consideration and report.

“It will go to the Assembly Press for gazetting and if it does go, it will then come to Parliament. The committee cannot take the decision Friday or in 48 hours.

“If it is introduced tomorrow [Friday], it cannot be worked on. It will be referred to a committee and it will sit on it, and when we come back mid May, they will serve us with their report having engaged with stakeholders. The important thing is that in the next meeting, certainly whatever it takes, the bill will pass,” he said.

Contentious issues

Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said one contentious issue with the RTI Bill had to do with the creation of an office which would be an assembly point to receive all relevant information such that any citizen who wanted information could go to the office to access it.

He said others were saying that the creation of such an office would be a too Herculean task to do.

Perhaps, Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said, an office could be created that would serve the purpose of directing people to relevant places to get information.

He said all ministries would then be required to establish information units.

Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said the other matter related to what information qualified to be described as national security information, and indicated that it was one of the sore issues in the previous bill.

He stressed the need for the country to be careful about what information should be given to people looking for information.

Otherwise, he said, it would derail the entire access that the government wanted to grant to citizens.

Source: Graphic.com.gh

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FRED PENTECOST

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