The Right to Information Commission has directed the Ministry of Finance to supply The Fourth Estate with names of institutions that have disbursed ex-gratia to Article 71 office holders since 1992.
The Commission said the information must be supplied to The Fourth Estate within 14 days upon receipt of the Commission’s determination.
RTI Application to the Ministry of Finance
On July 13, 2021, The Fourth Estate’s Evans Aziamor-Mensah made an RTI request to the Ministry of Finance requesting the following pieces of information.
- How much was released to the Right to Information Commission for operational expenses;
- The total amount of money released for the payment of ex-gratia for Members of Parliament whose tenure came to an end during the 1st Parliament, 2nd Parliament, 3rd Parliament, 4th Parliament,5th Parliament,6th Parliament, and the 7th Parliament; and
- The total amount of money released for the payment of ex-gratia for other Article 71 Office holders for the years 1997,2001,2005,2009,2013, and 2017.
After 14 days, the Ministry of Finance released a part of the information on the operational expenses of the Right to Information Commission in an August 2, 2021 letter to the Fourth Estate.
It, however, failed to release the rest, citing some existing protocols between the Ministry of Finance and the beneficiary institutions as an excuse.
“However, in respect of releases for payment of Article 71 Officeholders, it is our view that the Ministry of Finance is not in the position to provide this information given the protocols used for such a release. We, therefore, kindly advise that you contact the respective institutions for the information,” the Ministry told The Fourth Estate.
Unsatisfied with the reason given by the Ministry, The Fourth Estate petitioned the RTI Commission for a review.
When the RTI Commission wrote to the Ministry of Finance following the request for review by The Fourth Estate, the Ministry of Finance responded on 8th September 2021, explaining that it was uncomfortable about releasing the requested information.
“Our view is that the disclosure of this information, especially on compensation packages, should be the responsibility of the relevant institutions. We are particularly mindful of the independence of the institutions covered by Article 71, especially the Judiciary and the Legislature, as well as other independent governance organisations, and the possible complications the release of such information on their compensations by this Ministry may occasion”
The Ministry of Finance asked The Fourth Estate to “directly access the information from the relevant institutions.”
The Commission said the respondent (Ministry of Finance), based on the protocols listed should, have given written notice to The Fourth Estate, a provision enshrined in Section 20(1)(b) of the RTI law.
The law makes provision for situations a public institution is unable to deal with an application because the information requested “is in the custody of the public institution but it is more closely related to the functions of another public institution.”
In that case, the public institution should “refer the applicant to the relevant public institution; or transfer the application to the relevant public institution and give a written notice of transfer to the applicant.”
The RTI Commission said the Ministry of Finance could have at least given The Fourth Estate the names of the specific institutions from which it received “requests or notifications for the calculations of ex-gratia and releases of money for the payment of same”. This, the Commission said, would have enabled The Fourth Estate to know where to direct its requests.
This ruling was contained in a document dated January 5, 2022, addressed to The Chief Director of the Ministry of Finance, and Evans Aziamor-Mensah of The Fourth Estate.
“Proceeding on the basis of this power, and consequent upon the foregoing observations, the Commission hereby orders the Respondent Ministry of Finance, through the Chief Director Mr. Patrick Numo, to furnish the Applicant with the names of the institutions that made the ex-gratia disbursements or payments to their entitled employees,” the Commission told the Ministry.
The RTI Commission recently fined the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS) GHS50,000 and the Health Facilities Regulatory Agency (HeFRA) GHS30,000 when they failed to provide information to The Fourth Estate.