The Right to Information Bill, 2018 has gone through the second reading on the floor of Parliament with 63 amendments of clauses after the Chairman of the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, Mr. Ben Abdallah Banda presented reports of the Committee to the House for approval.
The 63 Clauses meant to be amended are found under the sections of Implementation Arrangements, Exempt Information, Information Officers, Procedure for Accessing Public Information, Transfer of Applications, Fees and Charges, Right to Information Commission, Review Procedure and Appeals and Reporting Arrangements.
Mr. Ben Abdallah Banda indicated that the passage of the Bill will mandate all public institutions to compile and publish manuals containing their official information within twelve months from entry into force of law. He again said that the manuals shall contain the list of departments or agencies under the public institutions and their responsibilities, types of information to be accessed free of charge or those to be subject to the payment of fees as well as contact details of their information officers.
The Chairman further stated that the Bill has exempted certain category of information from being disclosed such as information prepared for submission to the President, the Vice President, Cabinet, information on law enforcement and public safety, international relations, defence and security of the State, and personal information of individuals.
He again noted that such information shall however be disclosed if it would reveal evidence of contravention of any law or where there is imminent risk to public safety, miscarriage of justice and abuse of office or neglect to perform an official duty. He further stated that all exempt classes of information have a limited period of twenty-five years except where the disclosure after twenty-five years will still endanger life or the physical safety of an individual.
In relation to fees and charges on the accessibility of information, Mr. Banda reiterated that as part of the conditions for the application for information, applicants would be required to pay a prescribed fee determined in accordance with the Fees and Charges Act, 2009 (Act 793).
He further told the House that “each institution would also be empowered to request an applicant to pay a deposit where the cost of reproducing the information is likely to exceed the cost of the application fee. The fees collected are to be retained by the public institution to defray expenses incurred in the performance of their functions under the law. However, an application for the production of personal information of applicants, request for information involving public interest and requests by persons with disability are exempted”.
The Chairman of the Committee again informed the House that the Bill seeks to establish a Right to Information Commission which would be an independent entity to monitor the implementation of the right to information in Ghana.
He revealed that the Commission will constitute a five-member board that will have the responsibility to promote and sensitise the public on their constitutional right to information and monitor the performance of public institutions regarding the right to information.
Under Review Procedure and Appeals, the Chairman noted that the Bill sets out an elaborate review and appeal procedure to give redress to applicants who may be dissatisfied, with a decision given by a public institution and the Right to Information Commission.