The RTI Commission is back in the news for all the right reasons. Like me, many were disappointed at its verdict affirming the presidency’s decision to refuse to disclose cost of the president’s profligate charter-plane travels. Well, now he has stopped, but after those expensive travels, some unnecessary have cost the country dearly. Just how is the nation or the president’s security in danger by mere disclosure of the cost of those private jet flights? Flights which are now a matter of public knowledge, thanks to the investigative MP for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa.
The RTI Commission has earned the respect of citizens. It has been applauded for keeping fidelity with the law and giving hope that some public institutions will maintain an enviable professional outlook and do right by the people. It has been flogging public institutions whose officers forget they exist because there is the word “public” in their name, and that their duty and obligation is to serve the public whose taxes pay their salaries and fund everything they do.
In 2022 the Commission slapped GHC 50,000 fines on the Ghana Fire Service, the Ghana Police Service and others for failing or refusing to give information requested especially by the Media Foundation for West Africa’s The Fourth Estate online publication. It is the biggest user of the law. The Commission made orders compelling disclosure of information. The Minerals Commission which demanded $1,000 dollars (now GHC 12,000+) to release information to The Fourth Estate, was ordered to charge GH¢1.90 (approx. GH¢2) for PDF copies and GH¢1.80 per page for an A4 photocopy. It challenged the Commission’s decision in court and lost in most embarrassing manner. It spent GHC 27,000 on lawyers in the High Court and has again hired lawyers with tax-payers money to get the Court of Appeal to overturn that decision.
This week, the Commission has fined the ministries of Education and National Security, the Ghana Education Service GHC 50,000 each and the Lands Commission GHC 100,000 for not supplying information requested by Kofi Asare of Africa Education Watch and Oliver Baker–Vormawor of #FixTheCountry as well as The Fourth Estate and OccupyGhana. The fines attract 10% interest every 14 days until they are paid off. These institutions have also been ordered to release pieces of the information requested within 14 days. In part two next week, I discuss details of the disgraceful conduct and you will be shocked at the kinds of basic information sought and refused.
It is gratifying to note that the Commission intends to go to court to exact these fines and enforce its orders against defaulting institutions.
It is baffling why heads of these public institutions bring such bad name to themselves, their institutions and government. The information requested is generated with public funds and for the public. They need it to ensure accurate publicity and for accountability of the government to the people.
Most of the institutions failed to even acknowledge letters by the requesters, and would also not respond to the RTI Commission when it wrote to them to explain their shameful conduct. They forget the Commission has the powers of the High Court to compel them.
The Attorney-General, yes, even the Republic’s lawyer, just supplied information to OccupyGhana with an apology for delaying to do so. Godfred Dame always handles RTI requests with such respect for the people. The ‘supervising’ Information Ministry, the AG and the President must begin to publicly denounce the lawless, unconstitutional and disgraceful conduct of heads of institutions exhibiting and superintending such disrespect for citizens seeking information by resort to the RTI law’s orderly rules. Heads of such institutions should be made to pay the fines from their pockets. Be proactive in promoting what is right, punishing wrong or lose the right to complain about wrong. And that, is My Take.
March 4, 2023
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