It will now be possible for the Right to Information Commission (RTIC) to prosecute public officers who breach the Right to Information law.
This is because the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice has granted the commission the authority to prosecute offences brought before it under Act 989.
A Deputy Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Diana Asonaba Dapaah, announced this in her address as the keynote speaker at a public forum held in Accra to climax the RTI week celebrations on Wednesday, September 28, 2022.
“Our office has resolved to provide all the support needed for the Act to work and for the RTI Commission to succeed. In the spirit of cooperation and support, I am happy to inform you that the Honourable Attorney-General has granted prosecutorial powers to the Commission to enable it to prosecute offences under Act 989.”
She added that the commission’s staff had been trained to prosecute cases.
“We have further gone ahead to train the staff of the Commission to build their capacities as prosecutors to successfully prosecute offences under the Act.”
Before the Deputy Minister’s pronouncement, the Executive Secretary of the RTI commission, Yaw Sarpong Boateng, mentioned that the incorporation of artificial intelligence and e-governance would enhance the access to information process.
According to him, this would enable the commission to give every individual the opportunity to assess governance and promote democracy.
“In an era when you can hardly have offices across regions and districts of Ghana, we engage the public through our digital platforms in the hope that Ghanaians will have access to our services.”
The forum coincided with the International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI), which is set aside each year by the United Nations to celebrate access to anformation across the globe.
This year’s forum was themed: Artificial Intelligence, E-governance and Access to Information.
As part of the RTI Week celebration, the RTI Commission held a stakeholders’ conference at its Dzorwulu office in Accra, where it stressed that the citizens’ need for information from public institutions was a “non-negotiable.”
The Board Chair of the Right to Information Commission, Justice K.A Ofori Atta, said although the Commission had taken some steps in sensitising the public on the RTI law, the challenge of ignorance of the law still persisted.
“The Commission believes the artificial intelligence system, when incorporated, will ensure the public buys into the law, and will give individuals in the remote parts of the country the opportunity to deliver requests for information online,” he said.
Mr. Yaw Sarpong acknowledged that artificial intelligence system, although accompanied by many challenges, would replace the laborious efforts involved in searching for information and enhance the availability of information by public institutions.
The Resident Coordinator of the United Nations, Mr. Charles Abbani, and the UNESCO representative, Abdourahamane Diallo, both expressed optimism about the system and commended the RTI Commission for its work.
In order to make the process of accessing information less complicated, the Commission urged public institutions to familiarise themselves with the system, which is also disability friendly.
The Right to Information Commission commended the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) and others, for the sterling work done in educating citizens about the Right to Information Law by testing it.
A private legal practitioner and host of JoyNews current affairs show Newsfile, Sampson Lardy Anyenini, particularly singled out the MFWA for praise, saying the organization had been the biggest user of the RTI law since its operationalization in 2020.
The Commission has adjudicated several cases between applicants and some public institutions that frustrate the process. In most of the review applications so far, the Commission has ruled in favour of the applicants.
The MFWA’s projects, The Fourth Estate and Fact-check Ghana, have won several of such cases after going through the adjudication processes.
The writer of this report, Norah Aluayo Kwami, is a Fellow of the Next Generation Investigative Journalism Fellowship at the Media Foundation for West Africa.