July 2, 2018
The undersigned international organisations are committed to promoting and protecting the human right to access information held by public institutions or the right to information. We welcome the fact that Ghana is moving forward with a Right to Information Bill, which is a very important piece of legislation. However, the Bill has shortcomings that should be addressed before it is passed into law. An assessment of the Bill according to the RTI Rating indicates that it scores 89 points out of a maximum possible total of 150. This would put Ghana in 49th place globally out of the 111 countries currently on the Rating.
Some of the key problems with the Bill include its unclear scope, significantly overboard regime of exceptions, insufficient protection for the independence of the oversight body, the Information Commission, and relatively weak proactive information disclosure obligations for public institutions.
We urge the relevant authorities in Ghana, including Parliament, to take our recommendations into account as the Bill is reviewed, with the aim of ensuring that the law which is passed provides as strong a basis as possible for Ghanaians to access information held by public institutions.
The Bill contains a significantly overbroad regime of exceptions. Our key recommendations regarding exceptions are as follows:
A key problem in terms of scope is the lack of any proper definition of the key notion of a ‘public institution’, leaving this to be debated as the law is applied. This term should be defined clearly so as to include not only private bodies that receive public funding or undertake public functions but also a wide range of public authorities. Furthermore, section 84, excluding application of the law to information held by the national archives and other bodies to which the public already has access, should be removed. The Bill already addresses the issue of information which is available and this may be misunderstood as excluding these bodies more generally from its scope.
With respect to requesting procedures, our key recommendations are to:
A key issue in relation to the system of appeals is that the independence of the Information Commission is not sufficiently protected. Independence of oversight bodies is of paramount importance if they are to be able to do their jobs properly. We recommend, in particular:
A number of procedural rules should be added to enhance the appeals process, including:
Section 3 requires public institutions to publish certain categories of information on a proactive basis, but its requirements are too general and unduly limited in scope. Public institutions should be required to publish proactively a more extensive list of categories of information which, at the very least, includes more onerous obligations regarding financial and budgetary information. Consideration should be given, in this area, to the provisions of Article 7 of the Model Law on Access to Information in Africa.
The law should prohibit more broadly the wilful obstruction of access to information. The law should also put in place a proper system for promoting better records management by public institutions, including by having a central body, potentially the Commission, set records management standards.
Access Info Europe
Helen Darbishire, Executive Director (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Africa Freedom of Information Centre
Gilbert Sendugwa, Executive Director (email@example.com)
ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa
Henry O. Maina, Regional Director (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Centre for Law and Democracy
Toby Mendel, Executive Director (email@example.com)
Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
Sanjoy Hazarika, International Director (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Freedom of Information Coalition, Nigeria
Mr. Ayode Longe, Secretary (email@example.com)
International School for Transparency
Mukelani Dimba, Head of Development (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Media Rights Agenda
Mr. Edetaen Ojo, Executive Director (email@example.com)
Media Foundation for West Africa
Sulemana Braimah, Executive Director