The Ministry of Finance has directed ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to charge 27 pesewas for the photocopy of an A4 size page of information requested under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
However, if the information is printed from a computer, it will cost 38 pesewas. A copy of the information on storage devices, including pen drives will cost the applicant 29 pesewas.
Applicants will pay GH₵ 1.28 for “transcription of visual images, for an A-4 size page or part thereof,” the ministry said. The announcement is contained in a statement dated September 14, 2022, and signed by the Deputy Minister of Finance, Abena Osei-Asare.
The ministry’s directive follows parliament’s approval of the Fees and Charges (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, which determines what fees public institutions should charge the public for services.
The approved figures are miles lower than what the interim fees the RTI Commission gave in a ruling against the Minerals Commission which demanded $1,000 for information.
In that landmark decision, the RTI Commission ordered the mining regulator to charge only GHc 1.90, if the information was to be sent via email. It also instructed the Minerals Commission to charge GHc1.80 per page if it was to print the information for The Fourth Estate.
In June 2021, the Minerals Commission demanded $1,000 (GH¢5,700 to provide the information requested under the law.
The Fourth Estate had requested information on companies licensed to undertake mining in Ghana between January 2013 and May 2021, and companies whose licenses had been revoked or suspended within the same period.
The amount is the highest, yet any state institution has requested from The Fourth Estate.
But the RTI Commission annulled the decision.
Such demands per Regulation 4 of the Minerals and Mining (Licensing) Regulations, 2012 (LI 2176), apply to requests of commercial value including cadastral maps and exploratory data of mining zones.
In the absence of a legislative instrument to guide fees that public institutions should charge RTI applicants, the Minerals Commission said it fell on its internal laws to charge the fees.
The Minerals Commission challenged the RTI Commission’s decision at the High Court and lost but proceeded to the Court of Appeal, where the case is pending.
MFWA vs NCA
In July 2020, the National Communications Authority (NCA) asked the MFWA to pay GH¢2000 for information on the closure of some radio stations in Ghana.
The MFWA went to court to challenge the fees, and after almost five months of a legal tussle, the court gave its judgment on Thursday, June 17, 2021.
The Accra High Court presided over by Justice Gifty Adjei Addo slashed the cost of the information to GH¢1,500.
Ernest Norgbey Vs the EC
Justice Gifty Addo gave a similar decision on July 21, 2020, when she ruled on an RTI case brought to her court by a lawmaker.
Ernest Norgbey, MP for Ashaiman, had written to the Electoral Commission (EC) under the RTI law requesting information on the procurement procedure used by the commission to hire the services of two consultants—Dr Ofori-Adjei, an IT Consultant and Mr A. Akrofi, a procurement consultant.
The two were said to be very instrumental in the EC’s purchase of a biometric voter management system (BVMS). Mr Norgbey wanted to know whether the hiring of the services of the two consultants was in line with the Public Procurement Act.
The EC said it could not provide the information because parliament had not yet determined fees and charges for RTI requests.
The new fees are likely to lay to rest a long-running battle between applicants for information and the MDAs, which sometimes make outrageous financial demands on persons seeking information.
In recent times, the Public Procurement Authority and the Environmental Protection Agency have recently demanded GHS1000 and GHS2000 respectively as fees in response to RTI requests from The Fourth Estate.
EPA demands GHC2,500 from The Fourth Estate in a RTI request
What do they have to hide such that they make such an outrageous demands so as to frustrate information seekers?