Cletus Avoka

THE MAJORITY Leader, Cletus Avoka, has taken on the Right to Information (RTI) Coalition, contending the group cannot blame Parliament for the delay in the passing of the RTI Bill.

The coalition recently took on the majority leader for reportedly stating in the media that the RTI Bill was not a priority to the country’s legislature.

However, reacting to the issue at a press briefing with the parliamentary press corps yesterday, Mr. Avoka, who is also the MP for Zebilla, said he was taken out of context on the issue.

Flanked by the chairmen of the joint Committee of Communication and Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs; the Deputy Majority Leader, Alhaji Abdul-Rashid Pelpuo and some leading members of the majority caucus, Mr. Avoka indicated that he did his best to explain the issue during an interview.

According to him, he had explained that Parliament had to pass other bills ahead of the RTI Bill due to their urgency and not because the information bill was not important.

He explained further that following acrimony and confusion over the transfer of power from the New Patriotic Party (NPP) to the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and because the country had already started getting revenue from oil exploration, the Presidential (Transition) Bill and the Petroleum Management Revenue Bill had to be expeditiously passed.

“We had to pass these two bills because of the challenges we were facing, so I gave these examples. But the word priority chosen was taken out of context,” he added.

He blamed the RTI coalition for contributing to the delay in the passing of the bill, saying the group had failed to present its inputs on some grey areas in the bill.

Mr. Avoka, who is also the Chairman of the Business Committee, stressed Parliament was committed to the RTI Bill and “all things being equal it would be passed before the dissolution of this parliament”, which would be on January 6, 2013.

He indicated that scheduled activities such as travelling to South Africa or the United Kingdom to seek first-hand information on the implementation of the RTI Bill and collection of views from civil societies on the grey areas had now been truncated in order to track the passage of the bill.

Mr. Avoka said the joint committee had toured all 10 regions with the support of the World Bank, adding that in the second week of March this year, the committee, together with some civil society groups and the World Bank, had a final workshop on the bill in Accra.

The joint committee, he indicated, would start working on its report, emphasizing there was no deliberate attempt by him or anybody to delay the RTI Bill.

He admitted that the RTI Bill had a lot of challenges and it was the responsibility of Parliament to clear all loopholes as it would be fruitless to hurriedly pass a bill that could not be implemented.

Meanwhile, a leader of the RTI coalition, Nana Oye Lithur, has slammed the ruling NDC for the delay in the passing of the bill.

In radio interviews, Nana Oye Lithur said it was important for NDC to fulfill its campaign promises on the RTI before the December 7, 2012 general elections.

“They promised to pass the bill and it will be used as a campaign issue in this election,” she remarked.

 By Awudu Mahama

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