The Council of State has refused The Fourth Estate access to information under the Right To Information (RTI) law.
The Fourth Estate filed the request on June 10, 2022, to the Council of State demanding answers to 17 issues relating to the Council’s work between 2017 and 2020.
The request bordered on issues surrounding the revelation by Togbe Afede XIV, a former member of the eminent body, who returned GHC365,000 ex-gratia paid to him for serving in the Council of State that advised President Akufo-Addo in his first term of office.
But close to a month after The Fourth Estate’s request, the Council of State has neither supplied the information nor given reasons for the delay in responding. This is contrary to the RTI law, which requires an institution to respond to a request within 14 days after which the application is considered to have been refused.
“Where an information officer fails to determine an application within fourteen days after the application is received by the public institution, the application is deemed to have been refused and the applicant has the right to seek redress under sections 31 to 39,” Section 23 (5) of the RTI law, Act 989 states.
On June 21, 2022, the Editor-In-Chief of The Fourth Estate, Manasseh Azure Awuni, visited the Council of State to track the progress of the request.
He was directed by the receptionist to the registry, and then to the secretary at the Council of State, but nobody gave any details on the status of the request. He was asked to return on another day.
When Mr Azure Awuni requested a number he could call, the secretary claimed the Council of State had no telephone through which the public could contact.
The Fourth Estate has subsequently appealed to the Chairman of the Council of State in line with section 31 of Act 989, which states:
“Except as otherwise provided in this Act, a person aggrieved by a decision of the information officer of a public institution may submit an application for internal review of that decision to the head of the public institution.”
Meanwhile, the host of Good Evening Ghana on Metro TV, Paul Adom Otchere, received a response to a similar request a day after he wrote to the Council of State. Even before he wrote to the Council on June 8, 2022, for the eminent body’s attendance records from 2017 to 2020, the information had already been given to him for his show on June 7.
When Dr Elikplim Kwabla Apetorgbor, who is a special aide to Togbe Afede XIV, requested the same attendance list, the Council of State refused to grant him access but redirected him to Metropolitan Television (where Paul Adom-Otchere works) for the information.
Dr. Apetorgbor submitted two separate requests, one asking for the attendance list of members of the Council of State from 2017 to 2020 and another requesting “information on travel allowances paid to members of the Council of State” within the same period.
Dr. Apetorgbor told The Fourth Estate that the response from the Council of State was a “selective application of the law” by the Council of State.