The long-awaited Right to Information bill which has been in parliament for more than a decade may not be passed into law after all, as parliament does not appear eager to pass it, and with only six months left to bring the current session of parliament to a close.
According to Hon. George Loh, Member of Parliament for North Dayi, and ranking member of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee of parliament, the bill has been delayed due to some technicalities, ambiguities, knotty clauses, some apprehensions and disagreements associated with some of its provisions.
Briefing this reporter on the sidelines of a day’s workshop on the theme “Consolidating Ghana’s Anti Corruption Effort: Building Consensus to Address the Existing Gaps in Ghana”, organised by the Ghana Integrity Initiative in Accra, Hon. George Loh intimated that he has always pushed for the passage of the beleaguered bill but some of his colleagues feel reluctant to do same as a result of clauses that seek to make them susceptible to public scrutiny.
“Let me say it here and now, that some members of parliament feel they would be exposed to ridicule and scrutiny if the bill is passed into law in its current state… My colleagues have intentionally refused to pass it, by dragging their feet to stall this important bill. Even some chiefs, heads of corporations, ministries of state and others call me daily, and tell me to sit on the bill in order to protect them against public ridicule and prosecution”, he revealed.
Hon. George Loh continued that some NGOs, opinion leaders, the media, CSOs, the Ghana Bar Association etc. have been calling on the commitee to expedite action on the bill, but some of his colleagues have deliberately put it on the back burner by going back to ask already answered questions on some clauses, in an attempt to delay the passage of the bill.
The bill as it stands now has about 116 clauses. Out of these clauses only 20% of them have been tackled. It therefore pre-supposes that, given the elections in sight and the fact that parliament rises for recess at the end of July, the bill will be still-born under the current parliament.
“I want to also draw your attention to the fact that we have 18 other bills lined up for discussion and passage before we rise; especially Constitutional Instrument 91 (CI91). Besides we put premium on loans and economic bills, so we do not as a matter of fact, put same tag on all bills”, he intimated.
The legislator expressed his frustration over the slow progress made towards the passage of the bill, which in his view has a huge potential to reduce corruption in the country. “Some of us are poised to pass the bill frankly speaking, but we are seriously obstructed by our colleagues and some influential people in the country who feel threatened. But I shall continue to do my best; if it can be sneaked through and if we are lucky, it may happen”, he assured Ghanaians.
By Nana Poku, freelance writer