Opinion: Government Should Not Rush to Pass Right to Information Bill – By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

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Ghana’s former President Jerry John Rawlings

The debate over the imperative need for the government to pass a Right-to-Information (RTI) Bill has been raging for quite sometime now. Of course, it cannot be gainsaid that any robust and salutary democratic culture is enhanced by the ability of its citizens to readily access information bordering on how the affairs of the people are being run, in order to ensure transparency and accountability in the use of the public purse and other publicly held resources by the personalities entrusted with the same. What is curious about the non-passage of the RTI Bill is the fact that it was crafted as part of the 1992 Republican Constitution.

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It is curious because it was crafted in the wake of the much-touted demand by former President Jerry John Rawlings during the 10-year period that he ruled the country as a de facto dictator under the junta of the Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC). Chairman Rawlings would also serve as the first popularly elected President of Ghana’s Fourth Republic. Now, we are told that the Right-to-Information Bill has been on the statutory books for the past 17 years. And so what we ought to be asking ourselves is why a transparency and accountability crusader like Mr. Rawlings never facilitated the passage of the RTI Bill. And then we could productively begin to discuss why it bears passage by the Akufo-Addo Administration.

I make the latter observation because there is the globally renowned maxim which says that: “What is good for the goose is also good for the gander.” If four leaders of Ghana’s Fourth Republic did not deem it to be either appropriate or imperative to have the RTI Bill passed or enacted into law, then why would the likes of Prof. John Asafu-Adjaye, of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), attempt to scapegoat President Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo into the passage of the same? I don’t for a split-second believe that Nana Akufo-Addo should take the bait. Indeed, as Mr. K. T. Hammond has gone on record to have said, any rush to having the RTI Bill passed into a law of the land could very well create chaos and undermine the smooth ministration of the nation by the current government (See “IEA Mounts Pressure on Government to Pass RTI Bill” Ghanaweb.com 1/30/18).

Already, the Akufo-Addo Administration has demonstrated its willingness to pioneer the direct election of Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCEs). This is a salubrious measure that ought to have been implemented as far back as 1992, when the Fourth-Republican Constitution came into effect. The point that I am clearly making here is that there is more than enough on the policy-agenda plate of President Akufo-Addo of far greater significance, such as the rapid revival of the economy, for the government to be needlessly distracted by an RTI law that will not necessarily make it any easier to access sensitive information that may very well compromise the security of the country. There is a wise saying that “We shall cross the river when we get to the bridge.” The Right-to-Information Bill will inevitably be passed into law in the nick of time. Not just yet.

*Visit my blog at: kwameokoampaahoofe.wordpress.com  Ghanaffairs

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