The Speaker of Parliament, Prof. Aaron Mike Oquaye, has set a new deadline for the passage of the Right to Information bill.
He said the bill will be passed by the end of February 2019.
The speaker gave the indication during his closing address before the House went on break for Christmas.While indicating the House’s commitment to passing the bill, the speaker said although the bill was ‘tricky’, the House has completed 80 percent of the work that needs to be done before it is passed.
“The bill has seen several years and several parliaments and it is tricky in many ways. The budget and other important matters also came our way. We have done 80% of the work already and we will finish the bill fully I believe and professionally on or before the end of February 2019.”
He urged the public to “trust us and leave us alone for now” to deal diligently with the bill.
“The public should please trust us and leave us alone for now to do a good job. We are committed in passing the bill and we are working towards it.”
Prof. Aquaye further chastised Civil Society Organizations campaigning for the passage of the bill, suggesting that, some of them were being hypocritical in their approach to get the bill passed.
“While Parliament is still working hard to pass the RTI bill, certain persons and institutions are acting as if we are drooling off on the bill. This is fallacious and I will be glad if the media will seriously correct this misimpression….No Civil Society Organization should at this belated hour jump on our backs and pretend as if they are the people interested in passing this bill,” Prof. Oquaye cautioned.
Prof. Oquaye cautioned.
This will not be the first time the leadership of parliament has given assurances of having the bill passed.
The Minister for Parliamentary Affairs and Majority leader, Osei Kyei Mensa Bonsu earlier this month said the house will pass the bill by the end of January 2019 should it miss its December 23 deadline.
The RTI bill has become controversial due to how various parliaments over nearly two decades, have handled it and failed to pass it.
Recently the Media Foundation of West Africa (MFWA) condemned parliament and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) over how they have dealt with the Right to Information (RTI) Bill describing their conduct as extremely disappointing and deeply embarrassing.
The right to information is a fundamental human right guaranteed by the country’s 1992 Constitution and recognized as a right under International Conventions on Human rights.
The Bill as 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.