Information Bureau to Assist Ghanaians Access Information
An information bureau is to be set up by the Citizen Ghana Movement to help Ghanaians access information that public servants strive to keep.
The bureau will use the judgement of the bus branding case in April last year to get information for anyone who needs it from public officials.
On April 13, 2016, Justice Anthony Yeboah of the Human Rights Court in Accra ordered the Transport Ministry to make all documents on the bus branding contract available to the Citizen Ghana Movement.
The group went to court for the then Attorney-General, Ms Marietta Brew Oppong, to be compelled to release documents on the branding of some 116 buses by Smartty’s Productions that cost GH¢3.6 million.
A member of the Citizen Ghana Movement, Nana Akwasi Awuah, disclosed this at the commemoration of the International Day for Universal Access, to Information (IDUAI) in Accra last Thursday.
He said using the judgement as a basis, Ghanaians who needed information that was kept from them would be helped, at no or very little cost, to access such information.
The effort is part of a “sunshine campaign” by the movement to unveil corrupt practices in public service.
In 2015, UNESCO set aside September 28 each year to commemorate access to information.
Internationally, the day is being celebrated on the theme: “Overcoming divides and achieving SDGs in Africa.” while the local theme is,“Public Access to Information: A myth or a reality?”
The day was used by the Coalition to draw attention to the fact that 17 years of the campaign for the passage of the Right To Information (RTI) bill, it was becoming increasingly clear that there was no political will in passing the legislation.
The event also brought together some Ghanaians to share their experiences in their attempts to access information, some of which was their own information from state institutions and public servants.
Depth of information
A gender and community activist, Ms Fauzie Offei Tetteh, urged politicians not to use the RTI as a tool against their opponents by pushing for it when they were out of power and dragging their feet to pass it when they were in power.
A board member of the Private Enterprises Federation, Mr Senyo Hosi, in his submissions, wondered what had become of the report on the June 3, 2015, twin fire and flood disaster at the Goil Filling Station at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle that claimed about 159 lives.
For him, it was unpardonable that the government would use the taxes from victims to set up a committee to look into the matter and refuse to make the findings public two years after the disaster.
The Executive Secretary of the Ghana Anti-Corruption Action Campaign (GAAC), Mrs Beauty Emefa Narteh, disclosed that the pressure group had written to the Auditor General for a list of political appointees who had declared their assets.
She said the assets declaration regime also included the declaration of liabilities.
A former Municipal Chief Director of the Tema Metropolitan Area, Mr David Anann, said oaths of secrecy laws might be a disincentive to public servants giving out information, as well as poor archival systems in the public service.
Other contributors such as the investigative journalist of the Multi Media Group, Mr Manasseh Azure Awuni, recounted their challenges with public servants. Mr Awuni investigated contracts between the Jospong Group of Companies and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD).
Apensioner, Mr Emmanuel Ablosoo; a lecturer at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), Dr Jemima Nunoo, and a student and youth, Abubakar Nawaz, also shared frustrating experiences in accessing information from public institutions.
According to Mr Abubakar Nawaz, he was humiliated when he went to the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations to ask for employment figures.
He was rudely asked if he needed employment and humiliated by officials there.
Those experiences would be compiled and presented to the President and his officials to show the price Ghanaians had to pay to access information.