The Right to Information (RTI) Commission has fined 13 state institutions close to GH¢1 million for failing to release information requested through the RTI law.
Data released by the RTI Commission to The Fourth Estate through an RTI request shows that the Ghana Cocoa Board alone has incurred GH¢ 300,000 in fines.
Others are the Ghana National Fire Service, Ministry of Education, Ghana Police Service, Lands Commission (Eastern Regional Lands Office), which were each fined GH¢ 50,000. The Health Facilities Regulatory Authority and Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital were fined GH¢ 30,000.
The Keta Municipal Assembly and Ghana Oil PLC were charged GH¢ 60,000 and GH¢ 100,000 respectively. The Ministry of Health was also slapped with the least fine, 100 penalty units (GH¢ 1200).
After the release of the information to The Fourth Estate in February this year, the Commission further fined three other institutions: the Ghana Education Service (GES) and the Ministry of National Security, GH¢50,000 each and Lands Commission, GH¢100,000.
The 13 institutions are among 74 state agencies dragged to the RTI Commission for refusing to grant applicants information.
Before petitioning the commission, one would have to exhaust an internal appeal process by writing to the head of the institution to review the decision of the institution’s information officer not to grant the information.
Denial of information by state institutions has been one of the major the implementation of the RTI law.
A breakdown of the data shows that the Ghana Police Service breached the law the most with six petitions pending against it before the RTI Commission. The Ministry of Education follows with a total of four petitions. The Ministry of Health and the Keta Municipal Assembly have to respond to three petitions at the Commission. Ten other institutions have one each.
No institution has paid the fine
The Executive Secretary of the RTI Commissioner, Yaw Sarpong Boateng, said none of the 13 institutions has paid their fine.
Speaking at an event organised by the University of Ghana’s Department of Communication Studies, Mr. Sarpong said the Commission had initiated legal processes that would allow it to garnishee the accounts of the affected institutions.
The Ghana National Fire Service was the first institution to be fined by the RTI Commission for denying The Fourth Estate full access to information in January 2022.
The fine was also as a result of the Service’s refusal to respond to the RTI Commission’s request for an explanation as to why it refused to grant the information. The GNFS was given a 14-day ultimatum to pay the fine or risk paying a penalty of 10% of the amount for every 14 days thereafter.
The RTI law was passed in March 2019 and came into full force in 2020. It was passed with the aim of facilitating public access to information, promoting accountability and transparency and reducing corruption in the public sector.
The media and civil society organisations, who relentlessly campaigned for the promulgation of the law, jubilated over its passage as a welcome relief because of the difficulty in accessing information from state institutions.
However, the effective utilisation and implementation of the law have been impeded by state institutions which blatantly infringe on the fundamental rights of Ghanaians by denying them information, thus breaching Article 21(1) (f) of the 1992 constitution which states that:
“All persons shall have the right to information subject to such qualifications and laws as are necessary for a democratic society”.
In some instances, state institutions charged exorbitant fees outside the Fees and Charges Act [Miscellaneous provisions Act 2022 (ACT 1080)] approved by Parliament for the reproduction of information.
Perhaps, the most threatening part of the infringements has to do with the fact that almost every security agency in Ghana has flouted the law. This is against the backdrop of the 2022 fragile state index, which ranked Ghana among nations designated “warning”, counting Ghana as a state where citizens have very little confidence in state security institutions.
The Fourth Estate-triggered fines
The Fourth Estate hauled HeFRA to the RTI Commission for failing to respond to a request for information on the license status of some health facilities across the country. The regulatory agency was penalized with a GH¢30,000 fine for its obstinance.
The RTI Commission in February last year slapped the police with a fine of GH¢ 50,000 for refusing to grant The Fourth Estate information on its budgetary allocations and actual released.
The punitive measure resulted from the police administration’s refusal to respond to the RTI Commission’s request for an explanation. The Ghana Police Service was given 14 days to pay the fine or risk paying a penalty of 10% of the amount for every 14 days thereafter.
The Commission also ordered the Ghana Police Service to furnish The Fourth Estate with the information it requested within 14 days.
A year on, the police are yet to comply with the Commission’s decision. A similar ruling was given against the Fire Service, which complied and released part of the information requested.
In June 2021, the commission again gave a ruling in favor of The Fourth Estate when the Minerals commission charged $1000.00 as reproduction fees. In its ruling, the commission declared the $1000.00 charge as illegal and directed that the applicant pay GHS 1.9 for information sent via email.
In another case, The Fourth Estate dragged the Presidency to the RTI Commission in March 2022 for refusing to grant access to information on the cost of renting private jets for the president’s international travels. It was not the first time the Presidency has denied granting information upon request. The RTI Commission in this case ruled in favor of the presidency, declaring the requested information as exempt.
Below is a table of the defaulted institutions.
LIST OF DEFAULTED INSTITUTIONS
|NUMBER OF PETITIONS BEFORE THE COMMISSION|
|3.||Economic & Organised Crime Office (EOCO)||1|
|4.||Ghana National Fire Service||1|
|5.||Health Facility & Regulatory Authority||1|
|6.||Legal Aid Commission||1|
|7.||Min. Of Defence||1|
|8.||Min. Of Education||4|
|9.||Min. Of Roads & Highways||1|
|10.||Min. Of Health||3|
|11.||Public Procurement Authority||1|
|12.||Accra Metropolitan Assembly||2|
|13.||Min. Of Communication & Digitisation||1|
|14.||Min. Of Fin. & Economic Planning||1|
|15.||Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital||2|
|16.||Agricultural Dev’t Bank (ADB)||1|
|17.||Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG)||1|
|18.||Ghana Law School (GLS)||1|
|19.||Accra Psychiatric Hospital||1|
|20.||Ghana Police Service||6|
|21.||Ghana Maritime Authority||1|
|23.||Independent Examination Council & GLS||1|
|24.||Ministry Of Transport||2|
|25.||Office Of the President||2|
|26.||Data Protection Commission||1|
|27.||Keta Municipal Assembly||3|
|28.||Min. Of National Security||1|
|31.||Keta Municipal Education Directorate||1|
|32.||Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)||1|
|33.||Cyber Security Authority||1|
|34.||Min. Of Trade and Industry||1|
|35.||Controller & Accountant General’s Department||1|
|36.||Ghana Oil Company||1|
|37.||Ghana Cocoa Board||2|
|38.||Ghana Revenue Authority||2|
|39.||Sekyere Central District Assembly||1|
|40.||Office Of the Attorney-General and Ministry of Justice||1|
|41.||The Council of State||1|
|42.||Ga South Municipal Assembly||1|
|43.||Ghana Audit Service||1|
|44.||National Investigation Bureau (NIB)||1|
|45.||Ghana Health Service||1|
|46.||National Lotteries Authority||2|
|47.||PBC Shea Limited||1|
|48.||Ghana Enterprises Agency||1|
|49.||Ga East Municipal Assembly||1|
|50.||Ghana Airport Company Limited||1|
|51.||Ministry of Energy||1|
|53.||Ada East District Assembly||1|
|54.||National Health Insurance Authority||1|
|55.||The Ghanaian Times Corporation||1|
|56.||National Youth Authority||1|
|57.||State Housing Company||1|
|58.||La Dade Kotopon Municipal Assembly (LaDMA)||2|
|59.||Local Government Service||1|
|60.||Ghana Scholarship Secretariat||1|
|61.||Bosome-Freho District Assembly||1|
|62.||Saboba District Education Service||1|
|63.||Department Of Social Welfare||1|
|64.||Greater Accra Regional Hospital||1|
|65.||37 Military Hospital||1|
|66.||Ledzokuku Municipal Assembly||2|
|67.||Ghana Education Service||1|
|68.||Ministry of Tourism Arts & Culture||1|
|69.||Afadzato South District Assembly||1|
|70.||Anlo Afiadenyigba Senior High School||1|
|71.||Pharmacy Council Ghana||1|
|72.||Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Dev.||1|
|73.||Ghana Ports and Harbour Authority||1|
|74.||Quality Control Company||1|