Parliament has finally passed the Right to Information (RTI) Bill into law.
The Bill was passed following the completion of its consideration stage after several policy changes, amendments and months of rigorous debates on the Floor of the House.
The RTI Bill had been in Parliament for close to two decades despite calls from the media and civil society groups for its passage.
The governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) promised during the 2016 election campaign to pass the Bill if it won power.
The NPP government has since it came into office being under pressure from civil society groups to pass the Bill into law.
RTI bill passage to cost GHc 750 million
The implementation of the RTI in Ghana has been estimated to cost GHc 750 million over five years, according to a report by the Research Department of Parliament in 2017.
The report sighted by Citi News indicates that the cost will revolve around the setting up of an RTI Commission.
The breakdown of costs included funds for boards, administrative expenses, district administrative expenses, district office facilities and a head office.
For example, the administrative staff cost at the head office in the first year was marked at GHc 651,968.22.
For all the districts, the staff cost is pegged at GHc 91 million. These figures reduce year to year from 2018 to 2021.
The RTI 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 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 RTI 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 In October 2016, the Bill was withdrawn and replaced with a new one which was immediately laid.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.
That was done and the bill has been receiving attention by the house but not without pressure from CSOs to expedite action on it.