NDC General Secretary Johnson Asiedu Nketia has said civil society organisations must take the plaudits for the passage of the Right to Information Bill, not politicians. “The praises should go to CSO and not any politician” he said and observed that all two parties to have governed the country since 1992 have shown cold feet in getting the 19 year old bill passed.
“Politicians on all sides of the divide have a morbid fear of releasing information”, the former MP confessed on Joy News’ Saturday news analysis show, Newsfile.
Photo: NDC General Secretary Johnson Asiedu Nketia
Asiedu Nketia recalled the RTI bill first came to his attention in 1999 while he was an MP in Parliament. Public advocacy for the law operationalising a constitutional right for public information has began and was growing.
The bill drafted under the auspices of the Institute of Economic Affairs was reviewed in 2003, 2005 and 2007 and introduced on the floor of Parliament on February 5, 2010.
And that is where it has stayed in Parliament for a long time– the floor. Rising and falling through the deliberative ranks of parliament, it went through the First Reading after which it is referred to a special committee whose report on the bill triggering a Second Reading in Parliament. It then reaches the Consideration stage where it is set up for a formal Motion and a vote. The RTI bill got to this stage in December 2016 marking its most progressive stage in the process since 2010.
But petty political squabbling gutted the passage as the Minority, the New Patriotic Party, when had won power in the December 2016 threatened to walk out if the exiting National Democratic Congress government pushes its Majority in Parliament to pass it.
The bill collapsed at Consideration stage.
And it would restart its journey to become law under the new Akufo-Addo-led NPP government. But not without delays and postponements. And some antics too in Parliament as Adansi Asokwa MP Kobina Tahir Hammond would scatter deliberations on the bill by pointing out Parliament had no quorum to discuss the bill. A quorum that would not be pointed out on other business of Parliament.
But on March 25, 2019, late Monday night, Parliament passed the bill into law in what the Second Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Alban Kingsford Bagbin who presided over its passage, called a “landmark achievement”. The law now awaits President Nana Akufo-Addo’s accent to become an Act of Parliament. But that is not all. MPs inserted a transitional provision that will make the law operational – after 12 months.
The NDC General Secretary Asiedu Nketia said he could not understand the reasoning behind this transitional provision. “I don’t see any reason why for this particular bill they have to put this 12 months thing on it”, he said. It confirmed his suspicion that it is too early to celebrate the passage of the law, he indicated.
Explaining the psyche of politicians, he said, no politician would want to be the first to start implementing the law which could open up government to public embarrassment if the sunshine transparency is permitted. The 12 months starts when the President accents. The Akufo-Addo government ends its first tenure after the December 2020 elections.