Right Honourable Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to make this Statement to this august House.
In keeping with the requirements of Sections 64(3) and 77(4) of the Right to Information Act 2019 (ACT 989), I present to this Honourable House, a Statement on the Implementation of the Right to Information Act, (Act 989). I also submit to this House, the Ministry of Information 2020 Annual Report on the Implementation of RTI Act by public institutions for the period January to December 2020, and the RTI Commission’s Report on the same.
The RTI Act, is an Act to provide for the constitutional right to information held by a public institution, subject to the exemptions that are necessary and consistent with the protection of the public interest in a democratic society. The Act seeks to strengthen democracy, open governance, and sustainable development. The RTI Act (Act 989) was passed by this august House and assented to by the President on 21st May 2019.
Mr. Speaker, Section 86 of this Act made provision for the commencement of RTI implementation across public institutions by January 2020 and I am happy to inform this august House that twelve months after the commencement of this Act, significant gains have been made in the implementation of the Law by public institutions.
Mr. Speaker, following the passage of the Law, the Ministry of Information, which has the responsibility of ensuring that public institutions are adequately prepared and ready to deliver satisfactorily on their obligations under the Act, led the process for the planning and implementation of a Roadmap. This was done in consultation with major stakeholders, including the Parliamentary Select Committee on Communications, the RTI Coalition, the Data Protection Commission, UNESCO Ghana, and the Heads of the Civil and Local Government Services. The stakeholders guided the formation and development of appropriate and standardized systems and a framework for implementation of the RTI Act aimed at avoiding breaches and ensuring uninterrupted operationalisation.
The Ministry acknowledges the support and contribution of these key stakeholders in ensuring the smooth take-off of the implementation of this important public policy.
The Access to Information (ATI) Division was established and commissioned within the Information Services Department on 17th July 2020. The Division trains and deploys RTI Officers to MDAs to service access to information requests of the respective MDAs and provides back-end support to the RTI Officers on their day-to-day activities. The Division is also responsible for executing all other obligations of the Minister under the RTI Act.
Mr. Speaker, at the beginning of year 2020, 539 public institutions comprising 263 Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and 260 Metropolitan, Municipal, District Assemblies (MMDAs), and 16 Regional Coordinating Councils were captured in the Ministry’s database as institutions required to implement the RTI Law within the country.
As part of transitional arrangements, a dossier comprising the Act, Standard Operating Procedures and Application Forms were distributed to all Sector Ministries, Local Government Institutions, and Independent Public Institutions. These documents were resource materials modelled around sections 5-19 and 23-25 of the Act 989 and designed to assist public institutions to implement the law gradually from the beginning of 2020 until such a time that the internal processing systems and structures were fully put in place.
Mr. Speaker, the period January to December 2020 recorded a total of 478 Information Units set up across the 539 institutions in accordance with Section 3(3)(b) of the Act. A total of 1,055 Officers of the Public Services were engaged to play various roles in the implementation of the RTI Act. This comprised 478 designated Officers, 478 Records Officers and 99 recruited Information Officers who were trained and resourced to facilitate the processing of requests received by the institution.
Per Section 3(1) of the RTI Act, each public institution is required to compile and publish an information manual to document the nature and scope of information that may be accessed by an applicant within that institution. Mr. Speaker, in the first year of implementation, a total of 285 public institutions were found to have complied with this requirement.
A total of two hundred and nineteen (219) public institutions submitted their annual reports on RTI activities within their respective institutions. An analysis of these reports revealed that eighty-five (85) requests for information were received and processed in thirty-two (32) public institutions. Eighty-five percent (85%) [i.e., Seventy-two (72) requests] were granted while others were deferred, transferred, referred or declined in accordance with the Act.
Mr. Speaker, another significant milestone chalked in the first year of implementation was the inauguration of the Governing Board of the RTI Commission. The Board was sworn in by H.E. President Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo Addo, on 19th October 2020, in fulfilment of Section 40 of the RTI Act. The Commission serves as the oversight body for the implementation of the constitutional right of persons to access information.
The Commission has, since its inauguration, secured, paid for and is in the process of furnishing its Offices. The 2021 budget for the Commission has also been approved by Parliament, and work has commenced on its regulatory and oversight functions.
Mr. Speaker, generally, the implementation of the RTI Act in 2020 encountered some challenges including the impact of COVID-19, delays by public institutions in submitting required documents, transfers of designated officers resulting in the loss of institutional memory regarding the RTI Act, and non-compliance by some public institutions.
To address these challenges and build on the gains made, the Ministry, through the ATI Division of the ISD has outlined the following activities for subsequent years of implementation:
- Continuation of in-person training.
- Further engagements with Heads and frontline staff of Public Institutions on compliance.
- Staffing all information units with dedicated Information Officers from the Access to Information Division of the ISD.
- Submit a Legislative Instrument to be laid before Parliament.
- Embark on a Nationwide Public Education Campaign on RTI.
- Support Parliament to approve the proposed Fees and Charges for accessing information.
Mr. Speaker, I am proud to conclude that the Ministry of Information in 2020 worked assiduously and made significant progress in ensuring that public institutions are adequately positioned to implement the RTI Act. We look forward with optimism to consolidate the gains made and have a sharper execution of Act 989 to ultimately give meaning to Article 21(1)(f) of the 1992 Constitution.
I take this opportunity to applaud the contribution of key stakeholders (some of whom are present in the gallery today), namely the RTI Commission, the RTI Coalition, UNESCO Ghana, the Heads of the Civil and Local Government Services and the Ministry of Finance for the invaluable support in ensuring that the necessary systems were put in place and resources made available. I thank public institutions for their cooperation, and I thank the staff of the Ministry of Information and the Access to Information Division of the Information Services Department for their hard work, commitment, and perseverance in ensuring the roll out of the RTI Act within public institutions.
Mr. Speaker, finally, I express my sincere gratitude to you and the Honourable Members of this House for your attention. The Ministry of Information will continue to count on your support in ensuring the right of citizens to access information for national development.
Implementation of the RTI Act, 2020 Annual Report