Koforidua (E/R), July 15, GNA-Mr. Seth Acheampong, the Eastern Regional Minister, has said the Right to Information (RTI) Act 2019, (Act 989) will help strengthen Ghana’s nurturing democracy when implemented appropriately.
The RTI law encourages citizens in the country, no matter their nationality, social status, or age, to access information from public institutions and relevant private entities to promote transparency and accountability.
The information given out to requesters should be of public interest and protection but not to defame or promote contentions, Mr. Acheampong said, while addressing representatives of public institutions at a public forum organised by the Right to Information Commission (RTIC) in Koforidua.
The forum was to engage public institutions on their roles as enshrined in the RTI Act 2019, (Act 989) to promote the smooth implementation of the law.
“If our democracy will survive the test of time, it is by this Act,” Mr. Acheampong said. “I pray that we muster courage, gain enough experience to push our democracy forward.”
He expressed the hope that the RTI Act passed in 2019 would ensure the openness of information and accountability to build trust between public institutions and citizens.
To ensure the implementation of the RTI Act, Mr. Yaw Sarpong Boateng, the Executive Secretary of RTIC, said every public institution must have an information officer to receive applications, noting that all persons employed by an institution as information “must be trained by the institution.”
Although the RTI Act allowed access to information, he said there were about 12 exemptions for which information could be withheld from applicants, listing them as those relating to cabinet, law enforcement, and public safety, information for the president or the vice president, among others as exemptions.
According to him, information officers who gave applicants access to exempt information were classified as offenders and would be prosecuted.
“Officers who disclose exempt information will be given a fine of not less than 250 units penalty and not more than 500 units penalty or a term of imprisonment of not less than six months and not more than three years or both,” he stated.
He advised applicants not to use the information to the detriment of others because they would be liable for lawsuits. He stated that applicants were expected to pay a fee for the reproduction of information such as photocopies but emphasised that it was not the fee for generating the information as approved by parliament.
He also said that 60 days after December 31, all public institutions were mandated by law to send an annual statistical report on the number of applications made.
This is expected to help monitor the progress of the RTI Act and assess the level of understanding by citizens about the act.
Ms. Elizabeth Asare, the Deputy Chair, Board of RTIC, encouraged the public and relevant institutions to be open in information delivery to promote transparency and accountability.
“If we want to build our democracy strongly, we need not withhold information from the people,” she said, adding that, “the more transparent you are, the freer you do your work properly.”
The RTIC comprises seven commissioners mandated by law to promote, monitor, protect, and enforce RTI to grant a person under paragraph (f) of clause (1), Article 21 of the Constitution and the provisions in Act 989.
Source: Ghana News Agency