Section 40 of the Right to Information Act, 2019 (Act 989) which came into effect on January 2, 2020 provides for the establishment of a Commission. That commission, the act specifies, must by its nature be a body corporate and independent (Sections 42) in the performance of its functions.
For the purposes of clarity, the objects of the commission which are supposed to be achieved through the performance of its functions by a governing board have been specified in Section 41 as follows;
“The object of the Commission is to
c) protect, and
the right to information that is granted a person under paragraph (f) of clause (1) of article 21 of the constitution and the provisions of this Act”.
However, it’s been two months since the government announced the operationalization of the Act but a governing board for the commission is yet to be inaugurated.
Considering how critical the functions of the commission are to the overall attainment of its objects, one wonders what the implementation of the Act means without a governing board.
It is a charade? One may ask knowing the Information Minister, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah had said on January 8 in a media interview that all processes were complete for the board to be unveiled.
“We have completed the processes for the role out of the commission itself, we are just waiting for the date of that formal inauguration. Our expectation is that by the time anyone is even ready to file an application the commission will be in place”, Kojo told Omaru Sanda on Eye Witness News.
He further argued that the board was not a perquisite to applying for information and that the non-existence of a commission was not a hindrance to the implementation of the Act.
“No, that board is not in place, but that board is not a perquisite to you applying for information”, he said.
He claimed at the time that information officers had been designated at all government ministries to receive applications under the RTI Act, but TV3 found out that was not true.
At least TV3’s checks at the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Trade and Industry were both exposing and scandalizing enough to say the least.
Read:RTI applicant ‘bounced’, nearly pounced on by security at gov’t ministry
While it may have been true that the commission was not a perquisite to applying for information, the objects and functions of the commission in the overall implementation of the Act are so crucial that it could not have been downplayed.
Little wonder the RTI Coalition which has been instrumental in the advocacy for the passage and implementation of the Act have on several occasion raised concerns about the non-existence of a governing board.
In fact, without a working commission it raises the questions of who should in its stead promote the Act, which includes awareness creation, public education, provision of guidelines for training public institutions etc.
It is not surprising that the government, through the Ministry of Information, has taken up the functions of the commission by engaging in acts that qualify as promotion, motoring, protection and enforcement of the act; exactly what the commission should been doing. One is curious to know where the ministry draws its mandate from to do these things. (This is matter for another day).
The detailed functions of the commission as spelt out in sections 44-47 of the Act are so important that a further delay in constituting a board to govern the commission would invariably invalidate the gains consolidated from the passage of the bill. Why?
Had there been a commission, its functions to promote the Act could have made the institutions better informed to implement the Act. It would not have to take the Ministry of Information to carry out a sensitization programme in a bid to promote the Act.
Had there been a commission, it would not take the Information Ministry to investigate institutional non-compliance and it would definitely not be the ministry’s job to train heads of public institutions on the RTI as it is currently doing.
Had there been a commission, aggrieved persons including myself and Martin Kpebu who were unsuccessful in accessing the Act at some government ministries and statutory institutions could have lodged complaints at the commission for same to be investigated.
The Akufo-Addo government has already captured the passage of the Act in its Result Fair as a promised delivered but if it must measure up with its intended purpose there must be a board in place.
Until there is a board in place to promote, monitor, protect and enforce the Right to Information as granted in Article 21 (1)(f) of the constitution and Act 989, the supposed implementation of the ACT remains a fiasco.
Composition of the governing board of the Commission [Section 48(1)]
“The governing body of the Commission is a Board consisting of
a) a chairperson;
b) one deputy chairperson;
c) four other persons, two of whom are women; and
d) the executive secretary”