The Fourth Estate drags presidency to RTI Commission

Ghana President, Nana Akufo-Addo -AFP

The Fourth Estate has dragged Ghana’s presidency to the Right to Information (RTI) Commission for its failure to provide information the publication requested using the RTI law.

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The Editor-In-Chief of The Fourth Estate, Manasseh Azure Awuni, had written to the presidency for information on contracts awarded to Zoomlion Ghana Limited to fumigate and disinfect schools in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The right to information request to the presidency on December 6, 2021, was to, among others, know the justification, cost, scope of work and other related information on the COVID-19 fumigation/disinfection carried out in schools across the country.

The information officer at the presidency failed to respond within the stipulated period of 14 days.

Manasseh Azure Awuni then appealed to President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the head of the institution, for an internal review in accordance with section 31 of the Act, 2019, (Act 989).

The president failed to respond to the appeal.

President Akufo-Addo and his administration have often cited the passage of the RTI law as one of the successes of the government in the areas of transparency and the fight against corruption.

Fifty-six (56) days after the passage of the law, on May 21, 2020, President Akufo-Addo assented to it within 24 hours of receiving it. The assent was broadcast on national television.

“I am very happy that this law has finally been passed, and I did make the commitment that, when it was brought to me, I would give my assent to it right away. It was, in fact, brought to me yesterday afternoon,” the President said.

“But, on second thought, I felt that I should sign it in the plain view of the Ghanaian people, for you to know that this long, winding parliamentary process has finally come to an end,” he added.

Even though many state agencies have failed to respond to The Fourth Estate‘s request for information using the RTI law, this is the first time The Fourth Estate made an RTI to the presidency.

The presidency, however, responded to a different request which was submitted on the same day the request for information on the Zoomlion COVID-19 fumigation contract was made. That response explained why it could not release information on the other subject matter.

Fumigation/disinfection scandal involving the presidency

Four days after Ghana recorded its first COVID-19 case in March 2020, President Akufo-Addo ordered the closure of all schools in Ghana.

When the schools were about to be re-opened after three months, the president directed an indiscriminate nationwide fumigation/disinfection of schools against the coronavirus.

In August 2020, Manasseh Azure Awuni wrote to the Ministry of Education for information on the science backing the exercise and contractual arrangements about the COVID-19 fumigation exercise in schools across the country.

The ministry responded a year later— in August 2021—but said the presidency was responsible for the contractual arrangements for the school’s fumigation.

The Ministry of Education’s letter, signed by the sector minister, Dr. Yaw Osei Adutwum, said it could not give the cost or details about the Covid-19 schools’ fumigation.

“It is pertinent to note that the 2020 fumigation and disinfection exercise was done under a Presidential Initiative by the Nationwide Re-opening of Schools and Educational Institutions Co-ordinating Committee.

“The Ministry, therefore, had little role in the exercise for which reason we are unable to provide the information requested,” the letter said.

This prompted the RTI request to the presidency.

SOURCE: The Fourth Estate

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