VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS AND THE OFFICIAL REPORT
Hon Members, item numbered 2 on the Order Paper -- Correction of Votes and Proceedings and the Official Report. The Votes and Proceedings dated Wednesday, 6th June, 2018.
[No correction was made to the Votes and Proceedings of Wednesday, 6th June, 2018.]
Hon Members, item numbered 3 -- Questions. Hon Minister for Health, if you may please take the appropriate seat -- Question numbered 413, which stands in the name of the Hon Member for Nkwanta North.
ORAL ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS
MINISTRY OF HEALTH
Mr Speaker, could the Hon Minister assure the House that he would come back to address the issues as and when the necessary funding arrangements are completed?
Mr Speaker, throughout my political career, I have tried as much as possible not to pledge when I do not have control over certain things. So, I would find it very difficult to give that assurance. Mr Speaker, in my Answer, I talked about things that are outside my immediate control. The Ministry of Finance is supposed to do some work. Not until that is finished and I am told it is completed, how could I assure this Chamber that this would be ready at a particular time? So I would plead with my Hon Colleague to hesitate a little bit. As soon as these conditions are confirmed acceptable -- when somebody gives us a proposal, he may give us a loan with interests and charges. At this stage, I believe the Ministry is testing for concessionality, grant elements and several other things. Mr Speaker, so I am afraid that, since I am not in control of that area, I cannot give that assurance.
Thank you very much. Hon Member, any further questions?
Mr Speaker, I only asked whether he would update us on the progress of work; that is what I would want to know.
Hon Member, “update” should be distinct from “assurance”.
Mr Speaker, it is not an assurance; I would want an update from the Hon Minister. [Interruption.]
Hon Minister, the Hon Member has moved from “assurance” to “update”; if you could oblige. [Laughter.]
Mr Speaker, the little English I learnt in school does not give me the capacity to align “update” and “assurance”. When he asked the question, I thought if I could upgrade an existing facility. Until Mr Speaker, with your intervention -- [Interruption.]
Update, not upgrade.
Mr Speaker, my Hon Colleague wants to take some more information from the Ministries of Health and Finance. Throughout last year, my Hon Colleagues would bear me out that the Ministry of Health never submitted a single request for approval for any loan to do any facility in the country. We have submitted several proposals similar to the one I am talking about for Kpassa to the Ministry of Finance. Over the last two weeks I have had three different engagements with the Hon Minister and all I hear is that they are working on the proposals and they will revert to me as soon as they complete. Mr Speaker, that is part of Kpassa. I share the sentiments of my Hon Colleague, we are all looking for hospitals and health facilities in our areas, therefore I know where he is coming from as an Hon Member of Parliament, but when he needs something and the “there” is not there, it will be difficult for me to give assurances. So I said that he should hesitate a bit and I will get back to him as soon as I get any good news from the Ministry. Mr Speaker, thank you.
Mr Speaker, listening to the Hon Minister, should I conclude that there is no hope, since the “there” is not there?
Mr Speaker, my Hon Colleague still wants to draw me into an area I did not actually want to venture into. He should take my answer for it. I said I share his sentiments and I know -- [Interruption.] Mr Speaker, again, the “there” not being there is still not in my control -- [Laughter] -- So I will want to sit and continue to rely on what the Ministry of Finance will inform me on. As I said, as soon as I get any good information, I will call him and we will discuss what we can
The usual formula is for us all to say, ‘subject to availability of funds' which is a very frequent Parliamentary expression.
Mr Speaker, I would want to find out from the Hon Minister, as he awaits financial clearance to construct the district hospitals, what measures are his Ministry putting in place to ensure that the people of Nkwanta North -- at least, half of their medical needs are met?
Mr Speaker, the Ministry has actually started a lot of projects and programmes that enables people wherever they are, to access healthcare. We are only trying to deepen the quality of service and then create equity and easy access. That is why we continue to construct hospitals. The two Sides of the political divide share the vision of our leaders that each district should have one hospital. Mr Speaker, today, His Excellency the President is seriously championing the concept of One District, One Hospital, and that is where we are drawing our inspiration to talk about the Kpassa District Hospital. So there are arrangements in place. At least, we have District Directorates in the districts and there are a few more primary care facilities in the area. I believe people in that District are not sitting in a situation where they do not have any facility to access at all. Mr Speaker, I plan to visit that area sometime in the course of the year, and whatever I see that we can quickly do, I may come back to the Chamber to inform my Hon Colleagues about it.
Thank you very much, Hon Minister for attending to the House and answering our Questions. That ends Question time. You are respectfully discharged. Item numbered 4 -- Statements.
Mr Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to make a Statement on “Carnage On Our Roads; Potholes Another Factor.” Mr Speaker, road traffic accidents, the leading cause of death by injury and the tenth leading cause of deaths globally now make up a surprisingly significant portion of the worldwide burden of ill- health. An estimated 1.2 million people are killed in road crashes each year, and as many as 50 million are injured, occupying 30 per cent to 70 per cent of orthopaedic beds in developing countries hospitals. It is projected that if this present trend continues, road traffic injuries would be the third leading contributor to the global burden of disease and injury by 2020. Mr Speaker, developing countries bear a large share of the burden, accounting for 85 per cent of annual deaths and 90 per cent of the Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) lost just because of road traffic injuries. Since road traffic injuries affect mainly males (73 per cent of deaths) and those between 15 and 44 years old, this burden is creating enormous economic hardship due to the loss of family breadwinners. In developed countries, road traffic death rates have decreased since the 1960s because of successful inter- ventions such as seat belt safety laws, enforcement of speed limits, warnings about dangers of mixing alcohol consumption with driving, and safer design and use of roads and vehicles. For example, road traffic fatalities declined by 27 per cent in the United States and by 63 per cent in Canada from 1975- 1988. But traffic fatalities increased in the developing countries during the same period by 44 per cent in Malaysia and 243 per cent in China. The situation is indeed a daunting one and even grave when one takes a look at developing countries taking cognisance of the figures. However, road accident in Ghana is known to be the second major cause of death after malaria,and it is reported that there is an average of 1909 people who are killed through road accident annually. The exposure to potential road traffic injury in the country arguably has increased largely because of rapid rise in motorisation, coupled with poor road conditions, rapid population growth, lack of safety features in cars, crowded roads, poor road maintenance, and lack of police enforcement culture. Causes
Some include poor driving skills, drivers talking on mobile phones while driving, poor road infrastructure, overcrowded roads, poor road works, over loading of vehicles beyond their expected gross weights, fatigue driving by long distance drivers, drunk driving, over speeding, disregard for traffic regulations by motorists, poor road markings and signs respec tively. With the above factors notwith- standing, poor road works which renders the roads potholed a few years after construction can also be said to be a causative factor of carnage on our roads. Many a time, it would be observed that road management authorities go on a patching spree on major roads in the country to make it motorable, but the question is how long do these patches hold? Prevention and Intervention Mr Speaker, the World Bank and the World Health Organisation (WHO) advocates for a “systems approach” road traffic safetiness that emphasises involvement at all levels of the road traffic system - from road providers and enforcers, road traffic planners, road safety engineers, police, educators, health professionals, and insurers to road users et cetera. The approach is for the general good of a country which wants to save the lives of its precious ones. But in moving on as a country, we must begin to rethink the way we construct our roads and the maintenance steps we take in the country to better the traffic system. To begin with, improving public transportation systems can also reduce exposure. People in cars are between 8 and 20 times less likely to be killed in a road accident than walkers, cyclists, or motorised two-wheeler users.
Hon Member, thank you very much. Hon Zanetor Agyeman-Rawlings?
Mr Speaker, thank you very much. I would like to commend the Hon Member who made the Statement and also to add a few words regarding the issue of road safety and potholes on our roads. Mr Speaker, it appears that by and large when there is road construction, the Department of Parks and Gardens which must really be included in the inception of any road construction tends to be left out. As a result, we tend to have many roads where the landscaping and planting of trees are not taken into consideration at the very beginning. As we all know, it does not take a day for trees to grow, therefore the involvement of the Department of Parks and Gardens at the very beginning of road construction is very important. Mr Speaker, the other issue is the inclusion of sidewalks in the construction of our roads, because a lot of times, pedestrians are forced to walk on the roads in order to move from one point to the other. Mr Speaker, this puts them in danger and also forces motorists to veer off into on-coming traffic to avoid hitting some of these pedestrians. Mr Speaker, zebra crossings must also be included at regular intervals on various roads and on a regular basis. Pedestrians and motorists ought to be reminded about the rules of the roads, so that we would find pedestrians crossing the road at designated crossing spots as opposed to dashing across the streets, endangering their lives and potentially putting motorists at risk of coming into situations with the law. The other thing that would be of benefit would be to involve the Police officers in basic first aid training in order to make them useful first respondents in the event of road traffic accidents. Mr Speaker, so that in the event that we have so many accidents on our roads, we would not have the victims of these accidents being put into greater danger, because the people who attempt to rescue them end up causing more harm to the lives of these accident victims. Mr Speaker, also, regular maintenance must be taken into consideration whenever the cost of a road construction is done, because, once a road is constructed, unless it is regularly maintained, potholes are inevitable. Therefore it would be highly recommended that in taking into consideration the cost of construction of roads, either in the cities or anywhere, it must include compulsory maintenance and making sure that there are no potholes on the roads which also put people at risk. .Mr Speaker, in conclusion, I would like to urge that in the various areas where motorists and pedestrians observe that there are potholes, they should perhaps slow down as opposed to trying to go fast and avoid it, ending up creating accidents that could otherwise have been avoided. In some of the residential areas, for example, in Adabraka and some part of Osu, where the roads are so narrow and unable to take care of the traffic congestions — there should be
Thank you very, Hon Member. Hon Member for Adaklu, you may go on.
Mr Speaker, I would want to thank you for the opportunity to contribute to the Statement ably made by my Hon Colleague from the other Side of the House. Mr Speaker, the issue raised is of great conern to everybody. It is government's responsibility to build and maintain many of the public roads in the country. Potholes develop on many roads due to lack of maintenance and sometimes the way the roads were originally built. Mr Speaker, reports presented to this House by the Hon Minister for Roads and Highways during the Budget hearing suggested that the length of road as of the end of December, 2016 and the end of December, 2017 remained exactly the same. It means that, we have not built any road at all in this country for the past one year. It also shows that we were short of the length of roads we needed to maintain in the country. Mr Speaker, however, it was quite clear that the budget allocation to the Ministry is inadequate. In the year 2017, the Ministry of Roads and Highways was allocated just above GH¢700,000,000.00. That has been reduced GH¢500,000,000.00 in the 2018 Budget Statement. Mr Speaker, there is no way the Ministry could do any meaningful improvement on our roads with that kind of budget. As if that money is released to them on time, but we know because of our budgetary constraints that money is not released to them. So Mr Speaker, the presence of potholes on our roads are simply issues of maintenance. That is, the roads are not properly engineered. When it comes to the roads that are not engineered, one cannot even call them potholes, because the road is not engineered and so one does not even know what elevation it should have been in anyway. Mr Speaker, another thing we should think of is the vehicles themselves. Like the Hon Member who made the Statement acknowledged, some of the vehicles are not actually roadworthy. They fail to undergo the mandatory roadworthiness test but then they are on the roads. Surely, they are the ones that are not capable of being under proper control when there is trouble in terms of trying to dodge potholes. Indeed, if one does not do roadworthy test and does not maintain his vehicle, it is likely that when he wants to apply brake, in certain conditions, he might not be able to do it appropriately. Mr Speaker, the other one is the drivers themselves; the people in charge of the vehicles. We need to ensure that only qualified people are in charge of vehicles. It is usual for one to see somebody in charge of a vehicle when the person is just a trainee, but that person should not be on a public road. However, that happens in our country. We hope the Police would be able to take control of this situation. Mr Speaker, the other thing is the speed limit. Many people do not respect speed limits in this country. You would see a 50 kilometre speed limit and somebody speeding more than that within that space. Even on the motorway, people still believe that the Accra-Tema motorway has not got a speed limit. There is a speed limit. Indeed, the road signs are not there, but everybody knows that there is a speed limit. Mr Speaker, the most horrifying one is this; when in the morning one sees a gentleman or lady properly dressed, a person would think that person knows what he or she is doing, and would see that person in charge of a vehicle with children in it who are not properly strapped in their seatbelts or in the child's seats. There can never be an irresponsible adult than an adult who puts a child in a car and that car is not properly strapped in a seatbelt or in a child's seat. That is the highest of irresponsibility. It is the responsibility of that adult to ensure that that happens, because if one fails to do that and unfortunately, he or she needs to apply the brake because he or she has seen a pothole, surely, the impact of that on the children would be greater than what it ought to be. Mr Speaker, so in my opinion, this Statement is a very important one. We hope that we would all support the new Regulations that are coming in through the National Road Safety Commission and the Police to ensure that our roads are in good shape. However, Mr Speaker, I would want to use the opportunity to also plead with the House to ensure that the next time the Hon Minister for Finance comes to the House, the allocation that is made to the Ministry of Roads and Highways should be for the safety of all of us. When we see the budget of the Ministry of Roads and Highways diminishing, basically, what it means is that, the conditions of our roads are going to diminish because it costs more money to build and maintain roads. There is no magic about it. Mr Speaker, we would encourage the Hon Minister for Finance, that the allocations made to the Ministry of Roads and Highways are actually maintained and released on time, so that the Minister could carry out the necessary maintenance. Mr Speaker, thank you very much for the opportunity.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for this opportunity. The matter of potholes affect those of us from the rural communities, where our roads have not been constructed yet every year when the rains begin to fall our roads get worse and worst. Mr Speaker, in most of these communities, we realised that we hardly would have a vehicle in good condition willing to ply these roads. So we would find most taxis that are rickety, taxis that are not road worthy and taxis that are not insured being the main means of transport for the people in our communities.
Mr Speaker, thank you for the opportunity. I would use this opportunity to thank the Hon Member who made the Statement for his concern and the fact that he has drawn our attention to the bad nature of our roads and also, the accidents that we experience on our roads. Mr Speaker, yesterday, I travelled with H.E. the President and the Hon Minister for Aviation to Kumasi to cut sod for the expansion of the Kumasi Airport. We went with the military aircraft. When you are landing and you look down, you see the bad nature of our roads. Mr Speaker, if you are heading towards Kumasi and you are air borne, you can see that large portions of our road network in the Ashanti Region are actually not tarred. You can also see that the nature of the roads indicate that we have very bad maintenance culture and the roads are not being maintained. Mr Speaker, the number one enemy of roads is rain. If we refuse to maintain the roads, when it rains water will settle on the surface of the roads, and that is what develops the potholes. It is important that we develop better maintenance culture and see how best we can maintain our roads. Mr Speaker, I always disagree with the way we use the proceeds from the Road Fund. If we read or study the Road Fund Act, large portions of the money should go into road maintenance. But what we see from previous Ministers till date is that they use the Road Fund in awarding bigger and new road contracts, then leave very little for road maintenance. So we end up not maintaining our roads and allow water to remain on the surface of the roads when it rains. Mr Speaker, these are the main causes of the rate at which our roads are deteriorating. One of the issues also has to do with the way our contractors build our roads for us. There is the need for us, as a country, to build the capacity of our road engineers and also the capacity of our road contractors. Mr Speaker, a road is constructed and within one year, a road that should last for ten years would start developing pot holes. At times, while the road is being constructed and the contractor is still on the road, we experience potholes. So it is important we look at how we can build the capacity of our road engineers and contractors so that they can build good roads for us. Mr Speaker, the Vice-President recently asked us to reintroduce concrete roads. It is a very good idea, but if we do not take care and go into proper monitoring and see how we can mix our cement, sand and the gravel ratio, we would end up reducing the quantity of cement in the mixture, and within a short time, the roads would deteriorate again. So it is important we look at the monitoring of our roads per the engineers. At times we ask ourselves whether we have good engineers at all? Mr Speaker, in the year 2009, a road was constructed in my Constituency from Dokrokyiwa to Awuramu. The chief of the Dokrokyiwa, for lack of a better word, is an illiterate. He called me one day and said ‘Honourable, come and have a look at it, the way the contractor is working, this road would not last'. The Odikro of Dokrokyiwa who is an illiterate was able to see that, this road would not last. Yet the regional road engineers were supervising the road and indeed, within one year the road was destroyed. So the illiterate Odikro was right. So the question is, how come the Odikro was able to know that the road would not last, but the road engineer could not notice this and approved a certificate for the contractor to be paid? It is important we look at all these. Mr Speaker, I am of the view that we should build the capacity of our engineers and make sure that our roads are well constructed and can last for us, so that we do not throw money away. Mr Speaker, in your constituency, as we speak, the Ministry of Roads and Highways came to Parliament in 2015 and said that they were going to do something they called asphalt overlay. Asphalt overlay means they were going to repair the base of the road that had been asphalted, then put a new asphalt. After we approved the loan for them, they went back and put the new asphalt on the old asphalt.
Hon Members, we would take two more, contributions. One from each Side of the House then Leadership. Hon Fuseini?
Thank you Mr Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to contribute to this Statement ably made by Mr Robert Kwasi Amoah, the Member of Parliament for Achiase. Mr Speaker, the gravamen of the Statement is to lament the carnage on our roads; that we are losing lives on our roads. The Hon Member who made the Statement identified the causes. He said fatigue driving by long distance drivers; that when they take the vehicles and drive for a long time, they become tired. They might fall asleep during the process. When they fall asleep during the process, an accident could result. Mr Speaker, we have seen many such accidents. He has said that lack of safety features in our cars -- in fact, some of the vehicles we call trotro vehicles were initially not made for passengers, we came and reconfigured them here. We do not have seat belts in them so when they are involved in an accident, many people die, and that is a right observation. Mr Speaker, he says the crowded roads -- as a former Minister for Roads and Highways, I agree entirely with him. When the roads are crowded, vehicles try to manoeuvre their way through. In manoeuvring their ways some of them even use the pavements and when they use the pavements they put the lives of other road users in jeopardy, which could result in accidents. Mr Speaker, the poor condition of our roads, and that is a good observation. When you have potholes on the roads and you are driving on the road, because of the investment made in the vehicle, you do not want to fall into a pothole because it might affect your shock absorbers and the cost of maintenance of your vehicle may go up. The resources too are not there, so you try to manoeuvre your way and in manoeuvring your way, you might leave your lane, and that might result in an accident. The gravamen of all this is that, we need regulations. Mr Speaker, long ago, when State Transport Corporation (STC) was operating long distance journeys and I am sure they are still doing that, they used to put two drivers in a long distance vehicle, knowing fully well that when one driver drives and he is tired, the other driver would take over. Mr Speaker,, it is important to know what the Hon Minister for Transport is doing with the Ghana Private Road Transport Union (GPRTU) drivers who drive long distance vehicles. Do they have one or two drivers? If they have only a driver, then probably, we would need a Regulation to compel them to put two drivers in their long-distance vehicles, so that when one is tired, the other can take over. Mr Speaker, the safety features on our roads -- sometimes we see the apron, the island with markings that drivers do not have to drive in those markings. But we would see recalcitrant drivers moving onto those markings and unto our pavements, disobeying traffic regulations. Our Police who we have put in place to ensure that such recalcitrant behaviour is brought to book watch them with some level of impotency; unable to do anything about it. If we want to reduce the level of accidents -- because it is done elsewhere, our Police Officers of the Motor Traffic and Transport Department (MTTD) should be up and doing. When they find drivers who disobey traffic rules they should arrest and punish them. . It is only punishment that would get the drivers to do the proper thing. Mr Speaker, once upon a time, the Police were even toying with the idea of imposing spot-fines. I believe that what we would need to encourage them to do is to find point of sale devices, so that when they impose spot-fines, the drivers can pay and the payment would reflect in the accounts. Mr Speaker, the Hon Member who made the Statement has hit the right notes. All over the world and in most developing countries, death as a result of road accidents is increasing. Sometimes it is ironic that when the roads are bad -- Former President John Agyekum Kufuor spoke about it -- drivers take time to navigate the bad roads. When the condition of the roads are improved, it appears sometimes the drivers would want to make up for all the lost time that they had traversed the bad roads, and they engage in speeding which is frowned upon by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) and the National Road Safety Commission. They then crash their vehicles thereby killing people. Mr Speaker, I have heard Hon Colleagues talk about road maintenance culture. The investment in our road sector today stands at more than US$7 billion, and that is road infrastructure that the resources of the country have been invested into. So we have a duty to continue to maintain the investment, even if we are not adding to it. That is the reason I support my Hon good friend when he said that we should look at the process of patching the potholes that have been tinting our roads. If a person has only one shirt and it gets dirty from time to time, it must be washed for the person to always put it on. But if the person says that he would not wash it and wear it in that bad state, it would definitely give way and he or she might not have any shirt.
Yes, Hon Member?
Mr Speaker, I would add my voice to the Statement ably made by the Hon Colleague, Mr Robert K. Amoah. His constituency shares borders with mine. The Statement has come at the right time. This is because I know the Hon R. K. Amoah does not have even five (5) km of tarred road in his constituency and probably that is why he has made this Statement. It affects most of us. Mr Speaker, looking at the Statement, he talks about the carnage on our roads but emphasised on potholes. The title of the Statement is: “The Carnage on our roads; Potholes, another factor”. Several potholes develop when the rains set in. There were times that the past regime -- even the Youth Employment Agency Programmes had pothole programmes, where the youth were employed to basically fill potholes and nothing else. I really do not know how many potholes they filled in this country. But we had it because we saw the importance of filling our potholes. Mr Speaker, according to the Statement, potholes are one of the contributing factors that cause accidents on our roads, and that it is more serious than any other factor, even though he lists a number of factors in the Statement. Mr Speaker, several Hon Members who spoke on the subject this morning have touched on the fact that we need to have money to maintain the roads. An Hon Member mentioned that the core reason the Road Fund was set up was to get funds to maintain the roads. Of course, among the roads in Ghana, we know that the Tema Motorway generates the highest income. But sometimes we have the Tema Motorway in a bad state, and government would still have to borrow money and get money from somewhere else to maintain it. To me, what is the essence of tolling that road? And why are we always looking at building roads and not look at the funds to maintain them? Mr Speaker, if really the Road Fund was set up to get money to maintain roads, then we should maintain that Fund to perform that particular function. Again in Ghana, we talk too much. We want this and that. I do not see why we cannot construct a road and after construction we put a toll on it. We want good things, yet we cry when we have to pay for them. There are several roads in this country which have no tolls on them at all. Why can we not put tolls on them? When we travel outside, we see beautiful and nice roads. At the end of almost every 10km or 20Km of a road in the United States of America (USA), one would find a toll booth on them. So, wherever one is going, he or she would continue to pay until he gets to his destination. Can we not do same in Ghana? Mr Speaker, I always ask myself, we want money to do so many things. Do we have to always go borrowing or we can generate the money ourselves? Can we not result to a build, operate and handover system, where we would invite people with the required investment to come and build the roads and maybe arrange with them to take tolls for a period of about 20 years or 30 years then, when they recover their cost, they would move away. If we go that way, I believe that we can construct several roads in this country. Those investors would stay, reap back their investments and leave the roads for the country. Mr Speaker, I believe that this is a very simple way by which we can get money to build more roads and also maintain them, so that at the end of those contractual periods, the road reverts to the country. This is what I would want to draw our attention to. Mr Speaker, thank you so much for the time.
Thank you very much, Hon Members. That brings us to the end of Statement time. We would move to --
Yes, Hon First Deputy Speaker?
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. I just want to add a small bit. So far, the Statement which was on carnage; damage to human beings in particular: death and destruction, has turned to roads and so on. Mr Speaker, but all the research shows that the major cause of road accidents is human behaviour. The worst accidents happened on the best of roads; that is it! So the critical thing we must consider is our discipline; our own conduct on the roads. The better the road, the faster we drive, the straighter the road, the faster we drive. And where we think that the road is safe we are less careful and that is when the accidents occur. Mr Speaker, so while we are discussing roads and discussing vehicles, our focus should be more on human behaviour; driver attitude. Indeed, when it comes to vehicles, I believe it is more of the attitude of the driver, the vehicle owner than any other thing. This is because if he values his safety, he would go and fix the tyre, he would go and fix the wiper blades that are not working. So I believe that we should focus more.
Thank you very much. Hon Majority Leader, any indication?
Mr Speaker, an Hon Colleague, Hon Ahi has risen, I do not know. Otherwise I was going to suggest that we move to item numbered 9. But the Hon Ahi is still on his feet, if you may recognise him first.
Thank you Mr Speaker, for the opportunity. Mr Speaker, before we move to the Commencement of Public Business, I would like to draw your attention and the attention of the House to a very important issue going on in our country recently. Mr Speaker, about two weeks ago, we heard that Anas Aremeyaw Anas has a video in which several allegations were made. Yesterday Ghanaians had the benefit of viewing the contents of the video. After that I started receiving calls from both within Ghana and outside Ghana. People questioned why the Ghana Football Association (GFA) Chairman is still at post, and he is not honourably resigning to pave way for proper investigations into the allegations levelled against him.
I believe this is a national issue which Parliament as an institution must show concern. Mr Speaker, for that matter, I would like to suggest that you allow the Committee responsible for Youth and Sports to conduct an independent inquiry into those allegations and also call on the GFA President to step aside as a matter of urgency. This is because Mr Speaker, if you followed social Media and the airwaves this morning, it was generally agreed among Ghanaians that the GFA President should step aside. One may suggest that GFA is an independent institution and for that matter, we cannot go into matters that affect GFA. But article 109 of the Constitution says, and Mr Speaker, with your indulgence, I read: “Parliament may by law regulate professional, trade and business organisations” Mr Speaker, so, if we agree that GFA is a professional institution -- the Constitution also gives us opportunity to regulate the conduct and also go into any matter that has to do with GFA as a professional institution. Mr Speaker, this is a national interest issue and I would want us, as Parliament, to take steps to ensure that the GFA Chairman steps aside to allow independent investigations into the various allegations made against him. Thank you very much for the opportunity.
Leadership —Hon Minority Leader, then the Hon Majority Leader?
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, this morning when we were at the Business Committee meeting, if the Hon Majority Leader would remember, I said that that was the first thing I wanted to talk about but I had forgotten. I was struggling and he kept saying that then what you were now going to say was the first thing and I said no, that was the second thing, I had forgotten the first one. Mr Speaker, in fact, that was exactly what I wanted to draw the Business Committee's attention to, whether it would be possible or not possible for the House to set up a Committee to look into the issue. Mr Speaker, when it did happened to the Judiciary, they had their own internal mechanism to deal with it, so they dealt with it. But with this one, I strongly believe that like my Hon Colleague rightly said, Parliament may be the neutral arbiter that could sit and investigate this, to be able to come out with issues and suggestions for a possible change in legislation and other recommendations. But I missed the opportunity to raise it at the Leadership level when we met. Mr Speaker, I strongly believe that once our Hon Colleague has raised it, in order not to view and just talk about it and after one month it fizzles away -- Mr Speaker, probably, the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) may pick the criminal aspects of it for further investigations or prosecution. But for the whole issue that had gone through, I believe there is a very serious issue that if this House, with the permission of Mr Speaker, agrees that we set up a Committee to look into it, I believe it would do our country a lot more good than just the talk about it and allow it to just pass. Mr Speaker, so I would add my voice to what my Hon Colleague said that, this is a very important matter and we must seize the opportunity as a House with vested powers to investigate anything in the public interest. I believe it would be useful to do this and I hope that when the opportunity comes, Hon Colleagues may support the setting up of a Committee. Mr Speaker, the Hon Ahi said maybe, Youth and Sports Committee, I believe that
Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, before I make my own intervention, Hon K. T. Hammond had been very eager to make an intervention. If we might listen to him and you would just give him a little space of about two or three minutes, then I would come in with my own observations.
Hon Majority Leader, do I get you very clearly? Are you conceding your position on the matter to be expounded by Hon K. T. Hammond or you are halting to exercise your right later? This is because it is an unusual request which I take a certain view of. I would like to hear at this stage from Leadership. They are the people who have to give a cue where necessary, as to certain important matters.
Mr Speaker, I was just pleading that you exercise your discretion in this matter to allow Hon K. T. Hammond who came to me. He wanted to express a similar position and wanted advice from me. Apparently, the Hon Member for Bodi spoke about the same things he discussed with me. That was why I asked if you could grant him a little space, then I would come in with my own proposals. Respectfully, I submit that you allow him just a few minutes to also vent whatever he has on his chest.
Hon K. T. Hammond?
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, I add my voice to the points that have been raised by my Hon Colleague with respect to what has been going on in the last couple of weeks in the country which climaxed in yesterday's activities. There is this argument going on in the country that the GFA is a private institution, an association, among others. However, as an institution, private or otherwise, it is sponsored to a very good extent by the taxpayers of this country. Obviously, this House has an interest in how the GFA is run. The point that my Hon Colleague raised was that, to have the manner the apogee of that institution come under this attack and the GFA President still sit in place while we know that the President of the Republic referred a conduct of his to the criminal agencies of the country who are now investigating the matter -- From what we heard from those who had the opportunity to attend the viewing of the event yesterday, there is a bit more that has to be investigated by the criminal agencies. It is about the very person who is at the top of it . To then have that same person sit in place while these investigations go on would make nonsense of it all. Mr Speaker, what I suggest then is that -- I do not know so much about forming a parliamentary committee to investigate it. Considering the enormity of the situation and the fact that the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) and various security agencies are on to this matter already, a call must go out of this august House today, that the person at the top of this administration should step down and allow others to run the institution. This would give opportunity to those investigating the matter to do it without the risk of interference from any other source. The House must send out a very strong voice. Ghana is a beneficiary, and to this extent, the reputation of this country has been brought into very serious disrepute. It is all over the place. They are not talking about the particular individual or the organisation, they are talking about Ghana. Mr Speaker, you would recall the World Cup in Brazil, when money had to be taken in a plane, it was Ghana -- It became a joke in the European countries. This matter has to be properly investigated, the man has to step aside, if only to the extent that the co-efficiency of the matter would be properly sorted out. In his own language, when it came to investigating that matter of the moneys that were supposed to have been recklessly dissipated on that occasion, the nation heard him on national television suggest that it all depends on the co- efficiency of the distribution of the money. Why should this matter not be investigated? I call on this august House to send out a call, that the head of the institution who has come under this very serious criminal attack should step down and make way for proper investigations to take place. Mr Speaker, I thank you very much for the minutes you have given me and I thank my Hon Colleague, the Hon member for Bodi, for raising the point.
Thank you very much, Hon K. T. Hammond. We have heard a voice from each Side of the House and now, to the leaders.
Mr Speaker, I have heard my Colleague, Hon Sampson Ahi Esquire -- [Laughter.] -- He has raised something that should really agitate our minds. To start with, he quoted article 109 (1) which reads: “(1) Parliament may by law regulate professional, trade and business organisations.” The issue is whether as a House, we have done that. I am not too sure. I do not recollect that we have done this function
Hon Majority Leader, which article did you read from?
Article 109 (1) of the 1992 Republican Constitution.
“(2) The affairs of an organisation referred to in clause (1) of this article shall be conducted on democratic lines.” It is Parliament that should ensure that the affairs of these organisations and bodies are run on democratic lines. That was why I said that perhaps, we should do serious introspection if we have not done this. I do not recollect that we have done this ever since I have been in this House. Maybe going forward, we should look at how to do this. Mr Speaker, Hon K. T. Hammond introduced another dimension and that is, as a House, we should be concerned because the moneys that are given to them for their operations are State moneys -- moneys that otherwise could have been used directly in some other endeavours. Once moneys are given to them, they should account to this House the moneys that have been given to them by the State. They owe us that responsibility to account for at least, those moneys that are given to them. It is State money and they should render proper accounts to us as to the usage. Mr Speaker, beyond that, the issue that is at the heart of the matter which was raised by Hon Ahi, with respect to calling on the President of GFA, Mr Kwesi Nyantakyi to resign, I believe could be an issue of morality. We could only urge him to do so: it is in moral persuasion. But to say that the House should request him to resign, I have a little problem with that. The weight of the House, maybe, sending out a message to him that if he has not considered it he could consider it. But to request him to resign would be another matter. That is my own thought about the matter that was raised by the Hon Colleague. Mr Speaker, the Hon Member also went on to say that the Committee on Youth and Sports should investigate but I have a little challenge with that. This is because, if we agree that it is a private body, it really represents a serious encroachment on their turf if Parliament should re-route ourselves through the arena of GFA. We should be a bit circumspect in that regard. I would agree that there should be some moral persuasion that may be, he steps aside. Mr Speaker, I am done.
Hon Members, by the inquisitorial powers conferred on Parliament both by our rules and the Constitution, so far as a matter concerns the national or public interest in Ghana, Parliament can investigate that matter. [Hear! Hear] -- and we have acted within these boundaries by setting up Special Committees to look at a few things which we had not been doing in the past and we would so continue to do. Hon Members, it is also very clear, article 109 (1) of the Constitution, which states; ‘'Parliament may by law regulate professional, trade and business organisations'' is a very strong authority. In article 109 (2), it also says: ‘'The affairs of an organisation referred to in clause (1) of this article shall be conducted on democratic lines''. If we have the power to regulate you, one of the criteria is to see whether you are acting democratically and if fraud or corruption is alleged, that cannot be democratic. For that matter, we are entitled to look into that matter and come to some conclusion in one way or the other, and that is what our Special Committees must be able to do. We are in an era where we all agree we are fighting corruption and Parliament should be the authority that is most interested, in view of it being a representative body of the entire people of Ghana. For that matter, since no person, body or institution can assume an immunity from parliamentary investigation, I would ask that a Special Committee is formed right now. We would quickly look at the matter from both Sides of the House then we would be able to know what recommendations we should make. Leadership?
Mr Speaker, I perfectly agree with you that a Special Committee should do this. Mr Speaker, I would want to propose a Seven-Member Committee. Five may look small, but seven is reasonable to look at the issue. Three Hon Members could come from the Minority Caucus and four from the Majority Caucus and chaired by an Hon Member from the Majority Caucus. Mr Speaker, if it is agreed, I could go ahead to provide the names.
Hon Minority Chief Whip, five Hon Members may do. Three from the Majority Caucus and two from the Minority Caucus.
Mr Speaker, you are suggesting five Hon Members, but I suggested seven Hon Members.
Very Hon Minority Chief Whip, it depends on leadership.
Mr Speaker, if it is agreed, I would go ahead to provide the names of the three Hon Members from the Minority Caucus. We have agreed on the following Hon Members; Hon Kofi Amoatey, Hon Ras Mubarak and Hon James Agalga -- [Laughter].
Hon Members, Order!
Mr Speaker, a lot of Hon Members have talked about the Hon Member who raised the issue; Hon Ahi. He would have loved to be part of the Committee, but the challenge we have is that, he is an Hon Member of this House who represents us on the ECOWAS Parliament and he said -- [Laughter]. Mr Speaker, we do not want a situation --
Hon Majority Leader, once we have the membership, we would move both together; that we shall set up a committee and that such would be the members and we would then proceed. Once the Hon leaders have agreed on names, one would move for a committee to be set up, and that the members be as follows; and the other would second and I would put the Question.
Mr Speaker, when I was making my own intervention, I said I was not too sure of the formal point of entry by Parliament. That is the first issue that I raised. But if beyond that, your directive is that we should accordingly form a committee to delve into that, I would refer to Standing Order 187, which provides, and I beg to quote: “The Committee on Youth, Sports and Culture shall consist of eighteen Members to which shall be referred matters relating to youth, sports and culture generally.” That is the first issue that I would want to raise.
“All the Committees referred to under orders 151(2) and 152 shall investigate and enquire into the activities and administration of such Ministries, Departments, Public Organisations and Corporation as may be referred to them by the Speaker and such investigation and enquiry may extend to proposals for legislation.” Mr Speaker, this indeed takes its roots from article 103(3) of the 1992 Republican Constitution. Mr Speaker, I get the impression that you would want the House to now form a Special or Ad Hoc committee to investigate the matter that has been brought up by my Hon Colleague, Hon Sampson Ahi, the Hon Member for Bodi, and the premise is that, this is a matter of public importance, which is in accord with Standing Order 191, which provides, and I beg to quote: “The House may at any time by motion appoint Special or Ad Hoc Committee to investigate any matter of public importance; to consider any Bill that does not come under the jurisdiction of any of the Standing or Select Committees.” Mr Speaker that is the leg that you are resting the formation of the Special or Ad Hoc Committee on. Mr Speaker, however, the Motion to be moved in this circumstance, would require the formal filing of a Motion, and you admitting it for it to be debated now. As I said, I would want to beg of you that we go by this and then allow ourselves some time to think through as to what really to do. Mr Speaker, this is because Standing Order 78 provides that notices should be given in the events of Motions, and Standing Order 79 says, and I beg to quote: “(1) All notices shall be given by being handed in at the Table when the House is sitting, or by being transmitted to the Office of the Clerk so as to be receivable within the hours prescribed for the purpose.” Mr Speaker, I do not want us to confine ourselves to rigidities, but I am just pleading that yes, once we agree that a committee should be set up, we would between now and then think through and submit the appropriate Motion for us to come, maybe tomorrow with the constitution of the Special or Ad Hoc Committee if need be.
Hon Majority Leader, I expected that the two could be done simultaneously; one person moves that the House by Motion appoints a Special Committee to investigate a matter of public importance and that the members as agreed be, and that would be all. But if you want us to deal with this and you later consult and come out with the membership, fine. But definitely, we do not need a formal Motion on this. It can be moved on the Floor of the House ad hoc, and then we would agree that there should be a committee, then the Members would later on be given. And I would only do that because, maybe Hon Leaders are not certain about the membership. If you are certain about the membership, then we shall put the two together, but if you are not, then we shall put one before the other. But that is up to you.
Mr Speaker, I thank you for making it a little easier for the House. This is because we are masters of our rules. The Standing Orders say we are masters of our rules, and as we agree, we can vary and do things as we deem fit, and that is exactly what we are doing now.
Mr Speaker, I beg to move that this Honourable House establishes a seven member Special Committee to investigate and report to the House on the happenings of the Anas' Expose on Ghana Football — “Number 12”.
Mr Speaker, the issue is now being predicated on Standing Order 191, and I beg to quote: “The House may at any time by motion appoint Special or Ad Hoc Committee to investigate any matter of public importance; to consider any Bill that does not come under the jurisdiction of any of the Standing or Select Committees”. Mr Speaker, we are doing this under Standing Order 191, and subsequently, the Motion that is being moved by the Hon Minority Chief Whip, calls it an Urgent Motion, and that is predicated on Standing Order 78 (k), and I beg to quote: “78. Unless any Order otherwise provides, notice shall be given of any motion which it is proposed to make, except for the following-- (k) any motion the urgency of which is admitted by Mr Speaker.” Mr Speaker, I would want to believe that you have admitted the urgency of this Motion to be moved as such by the Hon Majority Leader sorry, the Hon Minority Chief Whip — [Interruption.] — Mr Speaker, those slippages must be allowed because he was in the Majority less than two years ago.
Mr Speaker, a principle we all share; the establishment of the Special Committee. I am not too sure of the numbers but let us agree to establishing it and by tomorrow, we would have further consultations and look at the exact numbers of the composition. So I second the Motion for the establishment of the Special Committee. Question put and Motion agreed to.
The Committee would be duly established and the membership would be determined by the Leadership accordingly. I thank you very much, Hon Members. Hon Majority Leader, any further Business?
Mr Speaker, I would plead with Hon Colleagues that, we vary the Business of the day and apply ourselves to item numbered 9 on the Order Paper; the Motion for a Second Reading of the Right to Information Bill, 2018.
Hon Members, item numbered 9; Motion. Hon Attorney-General and Minister for Justice?
Mr Speaker the Hon Attorney-General and Minister for Justice is engaged in a very serious matter and has dispatched the Hon Deputy Attorney-General and Deputy Minister for Justice, Hon Joseph Kpemka,
Hon Deputy Attorney- General and Deputy Minister for Justice?
BILLS -- SECOND READING
Hon Deputy Attorney- General and Deputy Minister for Justice, you would have the opportunity to wind up at the appropriate time but for now, the Hon Chairman of the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs would support the Motion; make an argument and present the Report which would tell us the essence of it all. So, let us go step by step.
Mr Speaker, accordingly, I move that the Right to Information Bill, 2018 be now read a Second time.
Mr Speaker, I beg to support the Motion that the Right to Information Bill, 2018, be now read a Second time. In so doing, I would seize this opportunity to present your Committee's Report. Introduction The Right to Information Bill, 2018, was laid before Parliament on Friday, 23rd March, 2018, by the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Hon Gloria Afua Akuffo, in accordance with article 106 (13) of the Constitution. Pursuant to Order 179 of the Standing Orders of the House, the Rt. Hon Speaker referred the Bill to the joint Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and Communications for consideration and report. The Speaker directed the joint Committee to determine the urgency or otherwise of the Bill. The Committee in its preliminary Report to the House on Thursday, 26th April, 2018 determined that the Committee needed to do broad consultations with stakeholders and the general public to be able to address any concerns that they may have. Consequently, the Committee reported that the Bill be taken through the normal legislative process and not under a certificate of urgency. Reference Documents The Committee referred to the following documents during the deliberations: i.The Constitution;
Mr Speaker, we have finally arrived. The Right to Information Bill has languished in the doldrums for some time now. It has generated a lot of anger within the public space that Parliament has not been able, all these years, after our attempt at Constitutional rule, to operationalise article 21 of the Constitution to make access to information one of the rights to be enjoyed by the citizens of this country. Mr Speaker, the fact that today we are doing a Second Reading of the Bill would give comfort to many people, that we are on the path to passing the Bill to operationalise article 21 of the Constitution. This Bill would make information from public offices and some private organisations available to the citizens. It would also throw some light or assist in our fight to curtail corruption in this country. Mr Speaker, this Bill must be looked at in the light of other numerous Bills that this Parliament is presently considering towards our determination to end or mitigate the effects of corruption in this country. Mr Speaker, during the stakeholder engagement and our consideration of the clause by clause rendition of the Bill in Koforidua, a lot of issues were raised. The Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) were particularly concerned about the exemptions that we have included in this Bill. Mr Speaker, I would want to assure the CSOs that clause 17 of the Bill appears to answer all the concerns that have been raised. Clause 17 is to the effect that despite all the exemptions, information would still be available if access to it would prevent the contravention or a failure to comply with the law; if there is an imminent or serious risk to public safety, public health or the environment; if the withholding of the information or its exemption would
lead to a miscarriage of justice; if the exemption would be an abuse of authority or a neglect in the performance of an official function; or the exemption would not apply in other matters of public interest. Mr Speaker, I consider the provisions in clause 17 as the gravamen of this Bill. It would enable citizens access information despite the exemptions that we have put in place, if one could demonstrate that information, even though exempted, is in the public interest or its exemption would lead to a miscarriage of justice. There are major matters that were found for which we have proffered amendments to the Bill. Mr Speaker, I urge Hon Colleagues that when these matters come before the House and we finally do a clause-by-clause consideration, they should take keen interest so that, we can get this Bill passed, and empower the citizens to access information from public and some private institutions. Mr Speaker, I thank you.
Mr Speaker, I thank you very much for the opportunity to support this Bill. Mr Speaker, in so doing, I would refer to the purpose of the Bill, which is to provide transparency and accountability in public affairs.
Hon Members, in view of the time and the Business ahead of us, I direct that Sitting be held beyond the normal hours. In the process also, the Hon First Deputy Speaker would take the Chair. Hon Member, please continue.
Mr Speaker, the Bill is also intended to provide access to information held by some private institutions. I am at a loss as to the use of “some” rather than “all private institutions”. I am hopeful that at the right time, we would address our minds to it, so that the access would not be limited by the application of “some”. Mr Speaker, the Bill is also intended to provide a right of appeal to applicants who would otherwise be refused the application for information, which is a feather in the cap. Mr Speaker, the procedure for access to information in public institutions has been outlined in the Report without probably looking at the access to the procedure for accessing information from private institutions. I would want to believe that it has been taken care of in the Bill, and we would address our minds to that at the appropriate time. Mr Speaker, aside these observations that I have made, I wholly and wholeheartedly support the Motion. This also brings us to a realisation that the whole House is in support of this Motion. When we look at the history behind the Bill, having been filed in the last Parliament and repeated here, it presupposes that the whole House is in support of it. Mr Speaker, I add my voice in support of this Bill, and hope that it would have a safe passage to become an Act of Parliament.
FIRST DEPUTY SPEAKER
Hon Member for Daboya?
Mr Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to contribute. Mr Speaker, at long last, the Right to Information Bill has found its way again into the House after nearly two decades of lobbying by CSOs, individuals and well-meaning Ghanaians. At least, we are back; this time around it is supposedly at an advanced stage. Mr Speaker, we would now witness a fundamental human right of the people if this House passes this Bill. Citizen participation in a democratic society is encouraged at all levels. How do citizens participate in a democratic process if they do not have a right to information or they do not have the right information? Mr Speaker, so this Bill if passed into law, will now give the right of citizens to access information from not only public institutions, but also from specific private institutions. So, it is a basic human right guaranteed by both national and international laws; The African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, the 1992 Constitution of Ghana under article 21(1) (5) and a Declaration of Human Rights. Mr Speaker, so it is a Bill that we have anticipated for a very long time for and we are glad that it will come to pass. I recall that some weeks ago this Bill was supposed to have been passed through a certificate of urgency and the Rt. Hon Speaker referred the Bill to the Joint Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and Communications. In the wisdom of this Committee, they thought that the Bill should not be taken through a certificate of urgency but rather pass it through the normal legislative process. Mr Speaker, rightly so. Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) were invited to participate in it and I was of the view that it was the right decision that the Committee took. This is because, with the effluxion of time, many things would have changed; politically, economically and even socially, therefore there was the need to do more input into the Bill. Understandably so, when we invited Civil Society Organisations, their inputs were enormous and valuable. So this Bill we find today is significantly different from the Bill that was brought in the last Parliament and it is worth the while. Mr Speaker, the Right to Information Bill when passed, will also add to the democratic credentials of our country Ghana. Indeed, not many countries in the world have got this law. A few countries that have passed this law have been added to the comity of democratic nations, therefore if we do pass this we will be part of those nations. It is my expectation that this House will go through it clause-by-clause and I am aware that there are certain teething issues that have been raised. The first is; Exempt Information. Paragraph 6.3 reads and with your permission, I read: “The Committee noted that the Bill has exempted certain category of information from being disclosed. Among the exempt classes of information are those prepared for submission to the President, the Vice President and Cabinet.”
Hon Member for Adansi Asokwa?
Mr Speaker, I heard my Hon Colleagues who have already spoken talked about this Bill finally arriving. What that quite means, I am not so sure. How many times has this Bill not arrived in this House before and if the fate of those Bills which arrived in the House are anything to go by, then I am not sure where this one is also going to go. Mr Speaker, I refer you to the Official Report of this House dated Wednesday 26th October, 2016. Column 1215 of that Report gives a chronology of what has happened to these previous Bills. Mr Speaker, I venture to say that if any Bill has had a checkered, very difficult -- [Interruption.] embattled, challenged history, it is this Bill.
“Cognisant of the international convention and treatise on Human Rights and in order to operationalise the Constitutional provision of article 21(f), a Right to Information Bill was drafted -- as long ago as 1999 and then the draft was reviewed in 2003, then in 2005 and 2007. Mr Speaker, it goes on to talk about those in years 2013, 2016 and now, there is one for 2018. There is a reason this Bill is suffering. On the occasion that the last Bill was introduced, I had the occasion to say quite a lot about it. I recall that on that occasion, you spoke at length about the matter. I always want us to be guided by history. When we go into these matters, we should look at history. Ghana has only been independent for so many years from 1957 till date. I am always against this habit of international institutions or organi- sations and some countries who profess to know better than everybody else and pressurise us to do (a), (b), (c), d and all sorts of things. Mr Speaker, under the pressure of some inducements -- and that sort of situation. Particularly, in this case, the pressure by Civil Society Organisations. On the last occasion when we debated it, my contribution was clearly defined in the Official Report of Thursday, 2nd July, 2015 under column 2123. Mr Speaker, I identified the history of the enactment of this Act; Freedom or Right to information -- whichever name or rubric it falls. Mr Speaker, I spoke about the fact that, the first country to actually have done it is Sweden which did it about 200 years ago. Now, Britain, for all that they are, managed to do this only in the year 2000, and even with that, it was not to come into force until after another five years. Mr Speaker, the United States of America for all its pretentions, put in place some form of Right to Information Bill only in 1966. I am saying that Ghana should not follow blindly when we get into some of these developments. Mr Speaker, I drew the attention of the House to something that made me panic in the last few days when I was not in this House. Mr Speaker, I discovered something which made me panic; we enacted some Acts in this House and it has something to do with people who were classified as the Politically- Exposed Individuals (PEP). Mr Speaker, we did that here but apparently, the British interpretation of anybody branded as PEP obviously satisfies the requirement of a criminal.
Hon Member, I am so engrossed in your contribution that I forgot to check the time. Hon Members, - Very well.
Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister, Mr Tony Blair, said on that occasion that the “Traditional culture of secrecy would only be broken down by giving people in the United Kingdom the legal right to know.” Mr Speaker, he went on to say a few other things and he was very happy for the sake of people having that right, so they went on and enacted it.
Do not panic about the source.
“Freedom of Information. Three harmless words. I look at these words as I write them, and feel like shaking my head till it drops off my shoulders. You idiot. You naive, foolish, irresponsible nincompoop. There is really no description of stupidity, no matter how vivid, that is adequate. I quake at the imbecility of it. Once I appreciated the full enormity of the blunder, I used to say -- more than a little unfairly -- to any civil servant who would listen. Where was Sir Humphrey when I needed him? We had legislated in the first throes of power. How could you, knowing what you know have allowed us to do such a thing so utterly undermining of sensible government?” Mr Speaker, this is Mr Tony Blair and I think that he should have also added ‘what a plonker -- what they had done'.
Hon K. T. Hammond, kindly tell us where you are quoting from.
Mr Speaker, my Hon Colleagues granted that I have been researching. So why would they not accept that I researched and found it? Mr Speaker, Tony Blair has written a book, entitled “The Journey” and in that book, he has indicated how strongly he feels about the Right to Information which he championed himself.
Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, the Act that my Hon Colleague is drawing our attention to is the Freedom of Information Act but ours is the Right to Information. So, the distinction must be clear to my Hon Colleagues -- there is Freedom of Information and Right to Information. Mr Speaker, there is a distinction and my Hon Colleague should be aware.
Mr Speaker, I know my Hon Leader has a considerable panoply of linguistic arsenal under his control and so when he talks about the semantics of Right to Information and Freedom of Information, I would leave that with him and we could discuss that subsequently. [Laughter.] Mr Speaker, but the reason Mr Tony Blair is belatedly so aggrieved about his own baby is that, some of the questions that he had to be confronted with at the time he was the Prime Minister starts as follows; ‘‘how much do individual Members of Parliament (MPs) claim in expenses and what for?'' ‘'How viable did the treasury think the government's ID Card Scheme was?'' What advice did Gordon Brown receive when deciding to abolish the dividend tax credit and who did Tony Blair as Prime Minister invite to dinner? Mr Speaker, these were some of the questions that were coming under the Freedom of Information Act. Mr Speaker, it is recorded that, in the first three years of the enactment of the law, as many as 300,000 questions came through for the Information Commissioner to deal with. I am saying that this Bill is potentially a banana skin and as the Prime Minister has said, it undermines to a good extent a sensible government. Mr Speaker, my Hon Colleague talked about clause 17, but when we come to that we would deal with it. In fact, it is the most dangerous piece of clause in this Bill; we give all the exemptions and then by a style, we take away all the exemptions. We will deal with that. Mr Speaker, but that is the extent to which I invite the House and everybody else -- there is another quotation by Mr Tony Blair that I would not bother about. It talks about who the beneficiaries are, and that it is not really meant for the good people of the country that he thought they were legislating for.
Are you planning the same fate for this Bill too?
Mr Speaker, I am going to give my secret away today. The secret is that, on the last occasion when my Hon Colleagues on this Side of the House were here and were trying to get the House approve the Bill, they rather intended that -- [Pause].
Hon K. T. Hammond, are you done?
Mr Speaker, I am going on. We encouraged them that they should make sure they are here in the House to help us do the work we were supposed to do. Mr Speaker, my advice is that, the Hon Deputy Minister whom I think is sitting at the back — the Hon Minister is not here herself, — they should be here to encourage us to make sure that, at least for once this does not arrive the way it had been described, but leaves here properly. The arrival is not important; it is the departure from here which is very important. This is the point I intend to raise. Mr Speaker, there are some critical parts of this Bill that we should also look at. -- [Interruption.] They said this Bill also regulates the activities of private institutions. Mr Speaker, I do not understand. Looking at this Bill as emanating from article 21(1)(f) of the 1992 Constitution, if you look at the provisions in there, they all deal with the public institutions. How are they going to regulate the activities of private institutions? So, my company should reveal its secrets and bring out whatever. That really is another matter that we will look at. Mr Speaker, what is worse is that, part of it is going to come into effect under the provisions of clause 89, which says that the Minister may by Legislative Instrument extend the application of this Act to cover the private sector. Mr Speaker, he was talking about Ghana Football Association and whatever, but that is not. Mr Speaker, firstly, I am saying that right to information has nothing to do with the private individuals or companies but more importantly the law as we intend to amend is wrong. We cannot ask the Hon Minister by Legislative Instrument which comes to Parliament and passes out of Parliament by a different route to amend by introducing a substantive matter what we have introduced by way of proper debate in this House. That is wrong, and that is the Henry VIII powers I have talked about. We cannot do that. Mr Speaker, another matter that is troubling, is the role of the Information Commissioner. Look at how the Bill has been structured. In fact, it misled the Committee into writing a few things in their Report which cannot be right. We have a situation where the internal review then proceeds to the Hon Minister and from the Hon Minister -- The law makes it very clear. Every aggrieved person at that stage could then apply for judicial review. When the whole of the judicial review is not concluded, then we have somebody coming back to the Information Commissioner. Is the Information Commissioner then going to review what the High Court has done or what would it be? It has been juxtaposed in a very bad ambiance. It has to be taken up. Either the Information Commissioner as it pertains in Britain is going to be the first phase of appeal so that, after the internal reviews from the Officer to the Minister, then to the Information Commissioner or whichever way, but we cannot have a final one to the High Court. Mr Speaker, in fact, even that is also not clear. Is that High Court the final stop? After that, is there no other review or what? I ask this because, the way it is crafted, one would get the impression that it is the full stop point. However, we then introduce the Information Commissioner. That cannot be right. Mr Speaker, then we talk about when it comes to the review of national security matters. I have done another research. Lord Huffman talks about the fact that, national security matters are for the Executive. They are not matters for the Judiciary. So, we are now introducing that matters of national security, I think it was supposed to be the High Court, but the Committee recommends that it should be a matter for the Supreme Court to review, which one? We should look critically at some of these matters. Mr Speaker, quite a bit in the Bill -- I am still looking at some of the notes that I have put down to see if I have left anything. Yes, Mr Speaker, there is another one. Apart from the clause 17 which I said is the most dangerous clause in all of that, there is another one that talks about the fact that in all of these, after 25 years, everything now becomes open access. How could we do that?
Hon Member, please, wind up.
Mr Speaker, I am winding up. I am not sure of the said security Act even if we would give 25 years or not. Some of them are given 70 years, but some of these matters cannot be revealed. So, we should look at it carefully. Mr Speaker, I do not want anybody to quote it anywhere. It might be so many years down the line. The Bill would create the situation where the Ministries, the Agencies, and Departments would be information management Agencies because on every occasion, one day, I promise you, they would have hundred thousand, three hundred thousand and whatever. Our institutions are already weak. Is the Attorney-General Department going to defend and be in court every day for judicial reviews and all that? Already, they are undernourished, underfinanced, under-structured et cetera. Mr Speaker, they do not have the facilities, and now they are introducing this. This is because, I am telling you that we would pass it tomorrow, and in the next day, I would write my own request. Some of the requests would be directed to Mr Speaker, his two deputies and the Leader of the House. Mr Speaker, these are my contributions. Thank you very much for the opportunity.
Let me take Hon Ahiafor first.
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to contribute to the Second Reading of the Right to Information Bill, 2018. In doing so, I urge the House to adopt your Committee's Report. Mr Speaker, good governance requires the participation of citizens and without adequate information, the citizens cannot participate but would just be spectators. Mr Speaker, let me use the opportunity to allay the fears of my learned Friend and my very senior Hon K. T. Hammond, that I have looked at the Bill, read it carefully, and I am inclined to say that if this Bill is passed into law it would promote good governance and participatory democracy and would not undermine a sensible governance. Mr Speaker, the right to information is a fundamental human right. It is guaranteed in the 1992 Constitution, particularly article 21 (1) (f), and with your permission, if I may read article 21 (1) (f); “All persons shall have the right to -- (f) information, subject to such qualifications and laws as are necessary in a democratic society”. Mr Speaker, clearly and undoubtedly, the right to information is guaranteed in the Constitution. The Right to Information Bill which is in this House for the Second Reading, would give effect to the constitutional right guaranteed the citizens of Ghana. This Bill, if passed into law, would go a long way to promote participatory democracy in Ghana and good governance for that matter. I would emphasise again that this particular Bill if passed into law, would never undermine sensible governance in this country. It would rather promote good governance and participatory democracy in Ghana. Mr Speaker, the Constitution is clear that the right to information must be subject to qualifications and other laws. That is why when you look at the Bill it is crafted in a way that the qualifications that the Constitution contemplates on are taken into account in the Bill. Mr Speaker, I looked at the Bill carefully and the Report; paragraph 6.1, which talks about the scope of the Bill reads; “The Committee observed that the Right to Information Bill gives the right to individuals to access information held by public and some private institutions. However, it does not apply to information already held in archives, museums and libraries”. Mr Speaker, the question therefore is, the archives, museums and libraries are these not public institutions? And if these are public institutions, why should the Right to Information Bill exempt information held by these institutions? When we get there we would be able to cross the bridge. Mr Speaker, the Bill also talks about information held by some private institutions. Do we want this Bill to extend and operate to cover private institutions, or we want to limit it to public institutions? Again, when we get there, we would be able to cross that bridge. Mr Speaker, every person in Ghana, irrespective of their colour, race, ethnicity or gender is entitled to have that right to information as guaranteed by article 21 (1)(f) of the Constitution. I am resolute that if this Bill is passed into law, it would go a long way to give effect to the right that has been guaranteed Ghanaians by the 1992 Constitution. Mr Speaker, with these few words, I would urge the House to pass the Bill into law, and once again, I thank you for giving me the opportunity to also add my voice to the Second Reading of the Right to Information Bill.
Hon Deputy Minister, you would wind up. Let me finish with the Hon Member for Effutu.
Mr Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to add my voice to the debate on the Floor. Mr Speaker, I am particularly thanking you for your power of recognition. Let me also commend your Committee for a good work done in looking through the Bill and recommending this Report for our deliberation. I believe that per the rules of this House, in particular, Standing Order 127, this is one important step in the law making process. Our ability to build consensus and to adopt this Report would enable the Bill to go through the next stage for the purpose of this enactment.
Hon Member, please return to the Report.
Mr Speaker, I am navigating.
You have strayed too far away from it.
Mr Speaker, I take a cue. I am basically making a point that, this law is very important in promoting democracy and in ensuring transparency in governance. However, if we address the concerns that citizens express through the enactment, and leave the other important rights that must be safeguarded under articles 18(2) and 41(d), we would get nowhere; we would be doing cos 90 work. It is therefore important that, the concerns that I have raised are speedily addressed. Mr Speaker, just today, the Supreme Court in the matter of the Republic versus Eugene Baffoe Bonnie and Four Others, a reference matter by the High Court Judge Eric Kyei Baffour, pronounced on the right of citizens in having access to documents that prosecution could rely on in prosecuting cases. Today, article 19 has had another turn. The Supreme Court was quick in calling for law reforms that the Constitution and Act 30 must move together in a positive direction. Mr Speaker, therefore, we have got a lot to do by way of enactment in giving effect to the various provisions of our Constitution. Therefore efforts being made by the Executive is very timely. We commend them and we would support them, as to certain details in the Bill that are very and extremely dangerous, we would not pre-empt them now; we would wait for the opportune time and we would make sure that the power of this House to amend are properly effected. Mr Speaker, the danger is that sometimes, when it comes to an enactment, although this is a House of the people, we are often constrained by supposed policy direction and policy decision and the fact that some external institutions want a certain direction. Therefore we are unable to even give effect to the law that would benefit our own people. An example is the Politically Exposed Persons (PEP) Clause, which was in the amendment we did last year of the Company Code when we argued that the way we were giving interpretation to that provision was dangerous. Today, as a businessman and a politician, I cannot easily go to the bank to access a loan. This is because, I am considered as a PEP. The bank sees me a politician as a high risk person. Mr Speaker, so as we proceed to the next stage, let all of us pay attention to the very slippery clauses and look at posterity, and not allow some of these clauses to slip through only for us to regret tomorrow. Mr Speaker, we once enacted a law which said that the State could seize and confiscate without trial, and the State went on that tangent.
Hon Member, wind-up.
Very well. Mr Speaker, later, we saw the need to raise --
-- On a point of order. Mr Speaker, I do not think my Hon Colleague wanted to say he is a business man and a politician. I believe he wanted to say he is a lawyer and a politician.
Mr Speaker, for the records, I appeared before you and made an application --
Hon Member, you did not appear before me.
Sorry, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, I appeared before the Committee and made two applications. One was to practise as a lawyer; and two was to operate as a businessman. It is in the records. I filled the forms. So, my Hon Colleague should not mislead this House to the effect that --
It is alright. The practice of law itself is a business.
Mr Speaker, it is important; this is a House of records. That is your interpretation and I agree to that. Mr Speaker, if it is to the effect that practising business, not practising law, then I applied for both, which have been duly granted. It is a matter of record. In conclusion, I would invite this House to pay particular attention to every single provision in the Bill. Our failure to do so may lead to undesirable consequences tomorrow. Mr Speaker, on this note, I support the work of your Committee. I would urge all to support the Bill to see the light of day. Thank you for your patience and kind audience.
Yes, Hon James Agalga?
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to contribute to the debate. The Hon Members who spoke earlier have already underscored the point that the right to information is a fundamental right captured under the Constitution. Mr Speaker, we must also mention the fact that, it is indeed captured in the Report when the framers of the Constitution domesticated the right to information in the Constitution. They did that in fulfilment of Ghana's international obligation that arose from our signing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was itself promulgated in 1948 by the United Nations (UN) and the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, which was also adopted by the then Organisation of African Unity (OAU). Mr Speaker, even before this House makes a final attempt, so to speak, to pass the Right to Information Bill into law, we would also need to emphasise that the Judiciary has taken the lead when it comes to enforcement of that particular fundamental right. Mr Speaker, not too long ago, some civil society organisations in this country sought legal redress and the High Court clearly upheld this fundamental right enshrined in our Constitution. The matter was in relation to the Bus Branding Saga.
Hon Member, if somebody applied for all the Hansards for the next one year, and he is entitled to it, and Parliament does not have the resources to reproduce them for the person, would that amount to refusal to supply the information?
Mr Speaker, I believe that because this is an issue of the enforcement of a fundamental human right, it is an appropriate instinct for the State to make an active intervention to ensure that there are no hindrances whatsoever. Mr Speaker, democracy is expensive so if it is the point —
Would you be prepared to pay additional taxes to fund this one?
Mr Speaker, if our desire as a country is to open up and make information accessible and available to our citizens in our quest to fight against corruption, and of course, to make government participatory, why not? We should source funds for this project rather than saddle applicants with payment of application fees, processing fees and so on. Mr Speaker, if we retain provisions of that kind in the legislation, what we would be doing effectively is to say that if one's economic circumstances are bad, yet one has the suspicion that some wrong is being committed in a public institution, one would shut up because one cannot raise money to access for such information. Mr Speaker, ours should be to insist that the State —
Hon Member, if you have a right that must be litigated at the Court but you do not have money, what happens?
Mr Speaker, that, is why Constitutionally, we make provisions for the creation of a Legal Aid Board. Unfortunately, Mr Speaker, as a senior Lawyer, Mr Speaker knows the challenges the Legal Aid Board itself is faced with. Mr Speaker, that is why even in our respective private practices, we are encouraged to do pro bono cases for people who have genuine causes but cannot raise money to foot the bills of litigation. Mr Speaker, I believe strongly that the fee regime should be taken out completely if we seriously intend to promote the right to information which is Constitutionally guaranteed and a fundamental right for that matter. Lastly, I wish to draw your attention to one important issue which also has to do with the exemptions. If you look at the exemptions, they are too blanket in nature. Information that is prepared for Cabinet and information that is prepared for the President's consideration are all supposed to be exempted. What is the rationale? If the disclosure of such information would not result in security breaches, why should ordinary information prepared for the consideration of the President, the Vice President and Cabinet be exempted? The rationale to me is lost with the greatest of respect. Already in existence are quite a number of legislations which seek to insulate the State from having to make certain disclosures which could create dire consequences for national security. So we have the State Secrets Act in existence. With all those legislations in existence, it is clear which information, if it is prepared for the consideration of the President, should not be disclosed. Beyond that, why should normal information prepared from the President's consideration be exempted under the Right to Information law? Mr Speaker, some of these exemptions need to be given a second look, and if we seriously intend to ensure that right is enjoyed by all, we should not also create too many exemptions, which in the final analysis would become a hindrance to the enjoyment of that particular right. Mr Speaker, on that note thank you for the opportunity.
Hon Member for Suhum, I would listen to you. I know that you would be brief.
Mr Speaker, indeed, I would be very brief. I rise to support the Motion that the Right to Information Bill be read a Second time. In doing so, I would like to comment on the Report of the Committee, specifically paragraph 6.7, under fees and charges. With your permission, I quote: “Whilst the Committee appreciates the fact that the cost of processing applications must be borne by an applicant, it disagrees with the payment of application fees and deposits.”
I would want you to look at the other rights that any person who is detained, arrested or questioned should have -- a right to counsel of his or her choice. If you do not have money to hire counsel who cares? So it appears in a way you are right.
Mr Speaker, to enjoy all of these rights. That was why I said that the freedoms that the Constitution refers to are more in their legality and not their cost. We create some of these things and they sometimes create the impression of corruption. You go to a Police station now and make a report, obviously, you have the right to security. However, the Police say they do not have a vehicle to go and make an arrest. It turns out you now have to hire a vehicle to convey the Policemen. Then you begin to border on the threshold of corrupt activities. Mr Speaker, so we have to get to the point where if there is a cost to some particular function of State and it has to be borne by an individual, we do not have to hide and try to be dodgy about the fact. Mr Speaker, I strongly believe that in this particular case -- Let us remember that the types of access we are even getting in some instances are going to change. We might be talking about information sitting on some webserver somewhere, which we could be granted access to, virtually in another location of the country. Yet they say the State has to bear the cost of providing internet access. We need to think through all these carefully. I believe that, the individual must bear the cost of access. It is not about selling the information to him but the cost of accessing it. You want to make 1,000 copies of a document or a single copy of a 1,000-page document; why should it cost the State? I have been to the House of Commons and seen a whole department set up at a cost to deal with the processing of these requests. Some of them could be frivolous and just mount costs on the State if it is free. So we have to be conscious of this fact. Mr Speaker, my second intervention has to do with the creation of the Commission. There already exists a Data Protection Commission which is a very closely related entity to what we want to create under this law. Already, if you look at the budgets we have passed in this House, the allocations Parliament has made to this particular Commission have been so inadequate that for several years there was only one employee. That was just the Commissioner herself. It was just per the last Budget that we were able to give them a few more resources to get additional staff. We keep on creating these institutions of State that we are unable to properly resource to do any serious work. Mr Speaker, I would argue that it would be better if we repositioned this particular Commission and replaced it with the Data Protection Commissioner to undertake the functions that we intend for the Right to Information Commissioner. Mr Speaker, I believe it could be a department in the same Commission and they would perfectly handle the things that have to be handled. Mr Speaker, taking a cue from your request to be brief, I would want to end in support of the Motion.
Hon Members, I would give the last bite to the Hon Deputy Minister for Information, thereafter, the Hon Leaders would have their turn. Mr Kojo Oppong-Nkrumah (Deputy
Mr Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to contribute to the debate on the Report of your Committee on the RTI Bill. Mr Speaker, I am particularly pleased to have an opportunity to comment on this because, for many years I practised as a journalist and I was part of those who shouted and screamed from the roof top that the RTI Bill should be passed now. Today, I have an opportunity to be part of the exercise of passing what I spoke about. Mr Speaker, several Parliaments have handled this RTI Bill and have worked on it until their times have elapsed and have not been able to conclude or work on the Bill to pass it into law. The reasons, as are given by these Parliaments are that, the depth of issues are such that they should be handled extensively. But the belief had been that, it is because of the fear of various Administrations that there would be unnecessary intrusion into governance; the government would be inundated with frivolous request as Hon K.T Hammond mentioned. That is why it is not passed. Mr Speaker, whatever it may be, this Seventh Parliament has an opportunity to do what previous Parliaments have not succeeded in doing. Though I have learnt
in my short time in this House that, during Consideration Stages of Bills and when it comes to the passage of it, we sometimes do not see the best numbers of Hon Members in the Chamber, I believe that there is a responsibility on us all, and because of the risk that the Bill purports to do what has not been done to take up the challenge and deal with it. Mr Speaker, there is this lingering perception out there, which I believe we should take advantage of today, to emphasise in curing. The perception is that, Ghana now seeks to pass a RTI law, if I may say so, and even though it has been mentioned a few times that article 21 (1) (f) already gives the right to information, that perception still lingers out there and it is particularly held up by my colleagues in the Media that the RTI Bill is now passed and that one would now get the right to access information. Mr Speaker, as has been said by some Hon Colleagues, the Constitution of Ghana, unlike what happened in Britain where they did not have a Constitution, therefore the Magna Carta only gave them some set of rights which did not exactly include this, has already given us a right to information. Indeed, in Ghana today, all Ghanaians have a right to information. It is only a procedure for accessing this information that this RTI Bill would seek to create. Mr Speaker, when we get to the Consideration Stage, we may want to consider amending the title to make it an ‘'RTI Procedure Bill'', so that the message would be clear. Mr Speaker, in the case of Lolan Ekow Sagoe-Moses and others versus the Hon Minister of Transport and the Hon Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, the Supreme Court of Ghana has ruled on this matter that in Ghana, we have the right to information already and what is only sought to be done is to create the procedure. The procedure that would be created however, would not necessarily make it easier for journalists to do their work than it is today. Journalists who would want to uncover corruption or who would want to get some information to do their journalism would still have to do that which a proper journalist must do. This would not lower the standard for good journalism. Mr Speaker, it is important that today, as we discuss this, we would also make that point that it is not an excuse for people to sit in their newsrooms and file frivolous requests and purport to use that as their stories. The high standards of journalism would still have to be maintained. Mr Speaker, again, for anti-corruption crusaders who are of the view and perpetrate that view -- that if we would want to fight corruption, then the RTI Bill should be passed because that is the answer to fight corruption, I respectfully differ from that opinion. Mr Speaker, those who desire to be corrupt go to extensive lengths to hide their acts, so for those who desire to uncover corruption, there is a higher responsibility on them to actually do what they would have to do to uncover it. RTI would not necessarily open the flood gates to uncover corruption. It is only a procedure Act, just like how Act 30 might be a procedure code for executing the criminal offences or for taking action against the criminal offences that are created by Act 29. Mr Speaker, that said, indeed there are areas of risk. Hon K. T. Hammond and other Hon Members have spoken about the risks that would be faced as it is passed; but that is also why the exemption clauses have been created. I am of the view that we should rather take up the higher responsibility of paying attention if possible, to within the life span of this Meeting list exhaustively the places that we believe these risks are, so that we do not use the fact that there are risks, there is work to be done, we have not finished with the work, to let this time elapse as well. Mr Speaker, I believe this is also an area in tightening up the exemption -- [Interruption.] -- That is information I could easily disclose, but I believe we could take advantage of this and tighten the area of the exemption clauses to avoid mundane requests that would be put through. Mr Speaker, one area that I am very particular about is the area of information officers. As Hon Colleagues know, I work in the Information Ministry and one of the things that we worked extensively on in this updated Bill is to try to design a mechanism where we do not just pass RTI Bill when there is no structure to deliver on those requests. This is because, if we do not set up these information offices properly, resource the persons who would be put there, train and orient them properly, we would go through this excitement and pass the Bill, people would file requests and there would not be persons of the requisite capacity to take a decision on whether an issue qualifies as a matter that should be responded to or whether another issue is a matter that should be rejected. Mr Speaker, as we do this, I would want to put across that, we should pay particular attention to the resourcing of the information offices so that the procedure that we seek to lay out would be lived when it is put out. Mr Speaker, there were two final matters that I sought to speak about. One was about the processing fee, but my senior political advisor has dealt with that extensively and so I would not speak about that. Mr Speaker, the final issue I would want to speak about is the argument about a possible conflict bettween the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) and the RTI Commission. The NCCE in the Constitution has a specific mandate, but the RTI Commission as envisaged in the Act -- Mr Speaker, with your permission, I beg to quote paragraph 6.8 of the Report. ‘‘The Committee further noted that the Bill seeks to establish a Right to Information Commission which would be an independent entity to monitor the implementation of the right to information in Ghana. The Commission would also have the responsibility to promote and sensitize the public on their constitutional right to information, and monitor the performance of public institutions regarding the right to information…”
Mr Speaker, if this is not done, we would be back to the status-quo where the right exists, but one cannot access it and would have to go to court. This Commission would become an important edifice in between that would ensure that some proper adjudication is made, at least, preliminary on requests that come through. Mr Speaker, with these words, I believe that this Seventh Parliament must not lose this opportunity and must let this Bill become an Act. Mr Speaker, I thank you.
Mr Speaker, listening to Hon Kojo Oppong-Nkrumah sends me laughing in my head. Yes, I was imagining him seated behind the console every morning, and virtually terrorising Hon Members of Parliament about the RTI Bill. Today, he is talking about the structures that need to be available, the right that has already been guaranteed in the Constitution. When he sat behind the console he never sought article 21 (1) (f). [Interruptions.] He said the Right to Information Bill'' should be passed. Maybe, we would need to intensify the education of the general public about the things that we do. Mr Speaker, most importantly, I would want to acknowledge --
Hon Member, you mean you have not started? [Laughter.]
Mr Speaker, I just passed a comment about the contribution of my Hon Colleague, Hon Kojo Oppong- Nkrumah. Mr Speaker, I acknowledge the presence of the Hon Deputy Minister for Justice and Attorney-General who is seated in the Chamber all this while. But that is not enough. The Attorney-General and Minister for Justice should have been here. This is the same attitude that made it impossible for this House to sail through. I hope the Hon Deputy Minister would carry this message to the Hon Minister; that as Parliament takes the steps to take this Bill through the Consideration Stage, she would find it necessary to find time to be here. This is because, she could ask the Hon Deputy Minister to represent her for the other functions that have prevented her from being here so that she would be here. This is because we are promulgating a law that can change the dynamics of doing things with regard to access to information in our country. I am not in any way indicting the capability of the Hon Deputy Minister, but the Hon Minister herself needs to be here. I hope that she would find time to sit here. Mr Speaker, there has always been arguments about where “rights” is placed in the Constitution. This is because, when we look at article 21, the general caption talks about freedom. But while we talk about the freedom, within the same freedom, we have the right to information. Sometimes, the temptation is — The general heading is, “Fundamental Human Rights and Freedom”, and article 21 says and I quote: “(1)All persons shall have the right to—” Almost all of them made mention of “freedom” until 21 (f) that talks about right to information. Mr Speaker, there is the tendency to think that it talks about the freedom for information. I strongly believe that it is just talking about the rights for us to have information. But if we look at the Right to Information and its geneses, like my Hon Colleague, Hon K. T. Hammond rightly said, it was first started by Sweden in 1766. The reason for Sweden enacting the law was to be able to have access to information that the king would not willingly let go. So the Parliament decided in 1766 to enact — [Interruption]. Mr Speaker, the next country to do that was Finland and that was over 200 years after. This is because it was only in 1951 that Finland followed and others started following. Today, we have 11 countries in Africa that have passed this Act. Mr Speaker, if we look at the way others have done it, the likes of Nigeria, it is virtually like the right is not even there. Many countries have enacted the Act to the extent that when the United Nations (UN) is counting they would deliberately say that the way and form in which it is passed they do not consider it as giving access to the people. I believe this is where we need to be careful. This is because, if we look at the exemptions, we may almost think that virtually everything is exempted. But then when we get to clause 17, then it is like almost all the exemptions have also been negated. Mr Speaker, at the Consideration Stage, I believe we would need to find a way of striking a very useful balance between the exemptions and then negating the exemptions. This is because obviously, some negation of the exemptions are necessary. Some of the exemptions are also too stretched, and so we would need to strike a balance when we get to the Consideration Stage. Mr Speaker, let me say one interesting thing that I have noticed. When I took the Report of the Committee and counted the number of amendments proposed, even at the Committee stage I was shocked — 142 amendments. This is just from the Committee. It has not come to the Floor yet.
But it is a far cry from the 2013 one. The amendments to that one was 50 pages.
Mr Speaker, when I take the previous Bill and compare it with the one that we are now considering, most of the amendments that we carried out have been incorporated. I was expecting a fewer amendments. This is because, almost all the amendments that we went through — as of January 2017 when we tried to finish the current “almighty” Majority Leader was making all the efforts to say that we should wait, the amendments that were left were not even up to 20. I expected that when this one comes, at least, the amendments from the Committee would not be more than 40. But we have about 142 amendments and this is just at the Committee. This means that when it finally arrives as we are doing now, we are likely to see many more amendments at the Consideration Stage. But my hope is that
Hon Leader, why is Parliament not updating its website very well?
Mr Speaker, unfortunately those who are to answer this question do not have voice on this Floor. This is because it was one of the things that I have —
Hon Member, you are a member of the House Committee, are you not?
Mr Speaker I am.
They would answer to you and you would brief us. So do not say that they are not here on the Floor. You should ask them and tell us.
Mr Speaker, even when I was the Majority Chief Whip, we had meetings upon meetings with them, then we would experience some little progress, then after just one month, it fizzles off. This is because it is a combination of the I.T. Department and the Public Affairs Department. We have complained over time in this House. One need to go to the website and one would be shocked. Some of the information are months behind.
Somebody asked me when we would rise this Meeting but I was not able to respond quickly. She then came back and said she had checked from our website and that we would rise on the 30th of June. Then I quickly realised that it could not be correct. So, I do not know who put that there.
Mr Speaker, that is an inaccurate information, that was why I said that almost every Ministry and Agency in this country has a website. And if they would update it regularly —
Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, for the avoidance of doubt, from the very outset, we said to ourselves that this Meeting would last until the 26th of July, 2018 which is a Thursday. We have stated that. [Interruptions.]
Hon Majority Leader, kindly get your website updated then.
Mr Speaker, the reason is because the House may have to respond to some Statutory engagements.
Hon Majority Leader your website must be updated to reflect the information you are sharing here.
Mr Speaker, that was exactly what I said. If one goes to the website, he or she would be misled. Meanwhile we have people here whose schedules are to ensure that the right information is put there; and all the necessary information are kept there but they do not do it. Mr Speaker, no individual would bear the cost of updating websites apart from the internet costs of accessing same. So I am of the view that in going through this Bill, when we get there -- There are some that have been exempted from charges and others that we believe people should pay for. Even then, we would need to look at it critically, because if we put the wrong ones at the right places or the right ones at the wrong places, they could create unnecessary problems for genuinely concerned Ghanaians who may want to access some information when we say they would have to pay for it. Mr Speaker, a lot of the issues have been canvassed. I just would want to add that the issue about the Commissioner -- I strongly believe that we have too many State agencies, that by simply amending their Act, we could add these other functions. This is because, just like my Hon Colleague for Suhum Constituency, Hon Opare-Ansah said, we have done others and up till now, we have not been able to resource them well. If we could amend their
Mr Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to also lend my voice to addressing the Motion before us, that we have the Right to Information Bill, 2018 read a Second time. Mr Speaker, I believe it is important for the records that matters are straightened up in this House. This is because, just before the Hon Minority Chief Whip rested his case, he came back to this kind of propaganda outside there, suggesting that, the Minority Leader at the time stopped the consideration of the Right to Information Bill as was before the House in 2017. Mr Speaker, as the Hon K. T. Hammond walked us through, the Right to Information Bill, 2018 was drafted in the year 1999 when we first came to this House. The draft was reviewed in 2003. In the year 2005, the Bill came to this House. I am surprised to see and indeed be reminded that as a matter of public record, it is said that the Bill was never presented to this House. It came to this House in the year 2005 but got withdrawn, admittedly, just two days after it appeared in this House. In the year 2007, it was further reviewed but was not presented to the House again before the exit of the Kufuor Administration. Mr Speaker, in February 2010, the Right to Information Bill came to be presented to this House and was referred to a joint Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and Communications in the Fifth Parliament for consideration and report. The Bill got caught up in some labyrinth and it was never really considered by the House.
the Report from the Committee was rather presented to this House in December 2014 after it was reintroduced and a referral was made on 12th November, 2013 to the Committee a year after the elections. The Committee then came with its Report to this House one year after, that was December 2014. It came to be read a Second time in July 2015. It tells the pains and agonies that the Bill had gone through. Mr Speaker, we began the Consideration not in 2015 but on 9th March 2016. This House spent six weeks on the consideration of that Bill. We were not making progress as there were so many amendments. Then it came to be withdrawn again and reintroduced more than one year after. [Interruption] Yes, it came to be reintroduced in this House in October 2016. That was when this Bill was laid in this House. People are resorting to propaganda outside there but that is the record. [Interruption.] So it was withdrawn by the Hon Attorney-General and Minister for Justice and re-laid on 18th October, 2016. That was when this Bill was re-presented in this House. At that time we had less than seven weeks before the conduct of the general elections. The Committee, because of the confirmation of the amendments, worked fast on it and brought its Report. Mr Speaker, the Report was then introduced to this House after two weeks. We then started its consideration. Mr Speaker, at the time, we had less than four weeks before the conduct of the elections. Some of us pleaded that we could not stay because never in the history of the Fourth Republic had Parliament continued Sitting less than six weeks before the conduct of elections. That was the year 2016. That was the argument though we attempted to work on it. We were persuaded that we should attempt to do it; if there was space we would finish, if there was no space, we would leave it. Parliament was re- summoned after we finished the elections, and it was brought back for reconsideration. I agree with Hon Muntaka that even after the amendments had been factored into the last one in October, 2016, we had 82 amendments to deal with. He talked about 20. We dealt with only 42; we had 40 outstanding. In January 2017, just before the re-entry of a new regime, this House was forced to finish with the 40 amendments. I said that we should be honest with ourselves because we could not do this in two days. [Interruption.] -- When did we come to this House in January, 2017?
Hon Majority Leader, can you stop the across- the-aisle argument and address the Chair?
After the elections and the New Year festivities, when was Parliament summoned? We had only two days, but we were urged to finish it. [Interruption.]
Hon Minority Chief Whip?
Mr Speaker, my Hon Colleague should be accurate with the information. After the elections, we came before the end of the year. It was not after the elections, we did not come here until January, 2017. It was during that time that efforts were made, that even though we had some amendments to go, we were to see what efforts we could make of the time that was left because most of the amendments had been incorporated when it was withdrawn and re-laid.
Mr Speaker, I am talking about what happened after the elections. The January 2017 meeting was to listen to the delivery of the last State of the Nation Address of the then President. When we were summoned after the elections, how many days did we spend here? As a matter of record, even when we tried to do the reconciliation, we had 82 amendments from the Committee alone, and there were as many as 53 amendments from individuals. They knew that it would have been impossible for us to have worked on it. Yet they went outside and made it appear that it was Hon Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu who “put sand in the gari” of the then government. That is a palpable falsehood; people should be truthful.
Hon Member, kindly return to the Report.
Mr Speaker, the right to information is a Constitutional guarantee that is assured, as we have all heard from one another, by article 21(1) (f) of the Constitution. It provides, and with your permission I beg to quote: “All persons shall have the right to -- (f) information, subject to such qualifications and laws as are necessary in a democratic society;” Mr Speaker, the Bill that we would contend with does not confer the right. The right has already been conferred and indeed guaranteed by article 21(1)(f) of the Constitution. This Bill only defines the route to actualise that right; that is the purpose of the Bill before us.
“The fundamental human rights and freedoms enshrined in this Chapter shall be respected and upheld by the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary and all other organs of government and its agencies and, where applicable to them, by all natural and legal persons in Ghana and shall be enforceable by the Courts as provided for in this Constitution.” Mr Speaker, I believe this answers the issue raised by my Hon Colleague, Hon K. T. Hammond, when he said that we should deal with public institutions only. The Constitution in article 12 (1), provides adequately that, all natural and legal persons are affected by the provisions in the -- [Interruption.] He should say what he thinks the article says. [Interruption.] Mr Speaker, this is the relevance. [Interruption.] Mr Speaker, I suggest to Hon K. T. Hammond that we are on firm grounds as captured by article 12 (1) of the Constitution. Now, the purpose of the Bill is to provide --
Hon K. T. Hammond?
Mr Speaker, thank you very much. Mr Speaker, my Hon Leader keeps mentioning my name with respect to this one. Mr Speaker, maybe you have the Constitution and you could have a good look at it. Article 12 specifically says, and I beg to quote: “(1) The fundamental human rights and freedoms enshrined in this Chapter shall be respected and upheld by the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary and all other organs of Government and its agencies…” . Mr Speaker, we could skip -- [Interruption.] It is because of the cover. I am talking about the parenthesis. Even that, we disagree; we disagree on a lot of things. “… where applicable to them, by all natural and legal…” -- it is where applicable; it does not -- it actually seriously disqualifies the upper part of it. In fact, it does not necessarily apply mutatis mutandis to the upper part of it. It says “where applicable”'. Once we deal with this specifically, we may come up with one or two instances where it may be applicable. It is not for nothing that “where applicable to them by natural and legal persons in Ghana” was put there. The emphasis is on the Government's, Departments and Agencies. Most of all, when we go back to article 21 (1) (f) -- I am looking at the structure of article 21, which says and I beg to quote: “All persons shall have the right to…” Mr Speaker, none of that talks about individuals, it talks about the Executive -- Government or public institutions. So I say that when we come to that we would argue it out but my submission on that --
Hon Member, if you had worked on the Bill a lot, the part relating to the private sector was the private sector body that is doing business with Government. Hon Chairman, am I not right?
Mr Speaker, -- [Interruption.]
So, if your company is awarded a contract to work for the government and there was information that was held by you because you would be paid by public funds, we will make Regulations on how to access that information.
Mr Speaker, maybe it reinforces the point that I am making, that the limitations there should be to the extent that it allows for it. The entire gamut of it is not referenced to --
When you go down the Bill you will see the particularisation.
Mr Speaker, it is not for nothing that the previous Bill that was re-laid in the year 2016 provided in the memorandum and I am quoting the Official Report of 26 October, 2016, column 1217 - Object of the Bill; “The purpose of this Bill is to give effect to article 21(f) of the Constitution by providing for the right to official information held by
Mr Speaker, he could not have re-enforced the point that I was making that private institutions performing public functions — What else can we say? That is the point that I am making. To the extent that it performs public functions, so be it. But standing on its own, it does not apply to private institutions that are not performing public functions -- [Interruption.]
Mr Speaker, the definition -- [Laughter.] The issue that is being raised --
Let me listen to the Hon Ranking Member.
Mr Speaker, this matter came up forcefully; by the stakeholders at Koforidua. It is not necessarily a private institution performing a public function, and the example was simple. Where a private institution imports things into this country and clears those goods at the ports and harbours and there is deep suspicion that that private institution did not pay the requisite taxes and somebody is investigating to establish the fact that the private institution did not pay the requisite taxes and applies for information. [Interruption.]
Mr Speaker, in that context, it applies to the source of the -- He was pointing at me and that is why I am trying to help.
Mr Speaker, so, then that private institution will be under obligation to produce those -- And it has happened before. Mr Speaker, do you remember the Komla Dumor and the company that was at Adabraka selling cars and where that information was sourced? So it has happened before and that is why we said that ‘some' and not ‘all'.
Very well. We would have the opportunity to examine the clauses, so we will take
Mr Speaker, I was just pointing out that indeed, in the observations of that Committee's Report, clarity was provided. It said: “The Committee observed that the scope of access to information is not limited to only public institutions, the Bill grants access to information in the custody of private entities, particularly, if the disclosure is in the public interest.” The purpose of the Bill as I have said, is to provide access to official information held by public institutions and also private entities performing public functions. Also, information held by private entities to the extent that they are matters of public interest. Mr Speaker, again, the second purpose of this Bill is to provide qualifications and conditions under which the access should be obtained. The Bill also ensures the availability to the individual of the rightful information and also it ensures more truthfulness and transparency in information that is transmitted. Ultimately, we would all agree that it is part of the scheme to fight corruption. My Hon Colleague, the Hon Afenyo- Markin drew attention to article 18 (2) of the Constitution and that relates to privacy issues. It provides and I quote: “No person shall be subjected to interference with the privacy of his home, property, correspondence or communication except in accordance with law…”. This is one of the laws we are making. So, for anybody to say that we should respect privacy in an unfettered manner I beg to disagree. There are qualifications: “No person shall be subjected to interference with the privacy of his home, property, correspondence or communication except in accor- dance with law and as may be necessary in a free and democratic society for public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the protection of health or morals, for the prevention of disorder or crime or for the protection of the rights or freedoms of others.” Mr Speaker, this is where the anchor is, so one cannot just argue that we should respect the privacy of individuals. Therefore this law would constitute a breach to article 18 (2). I beg to disagree. I listened to Hon Colleagues who talked about right to access. I believe it is how we pronounce “access” which then creates the problem for us. This Bill is not about the right to “access”, it is about right to access information. It is the verb (access) and not the noun (access) which is route. It is not granting us access to the route, the right has already been guaranteed by article 21 (1) (f). All what this Bill seeks to do is to really construct the route or facility for us to access the information. Mr Speaker, I agree with the Hon Opare- Ansah when he said that constructing that root comes with a cost, some minimum charge should be imposed so that frivolous applications may not be submitted. Otherwis, we shall see a whole inundation of the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MMDA), including Parliament. Parliament represents the people of this country yet whatever we say here, if people want to access it; they pay for the Hansard. Is it a breach of the Constitution? They have to pay something at least, this is what allows them to know and they should realise that this should come at a cost and as I said, frivolous and vexatious applications would not be submitted. Mr Speaker, but there is something which is fundamental that I would want us to address our minds to; is the information a human freedom or a human right? Mr Speaker, the Constitution makes some distinctions between human rights and human freedoms. Mr Speaker, Chapter 5 is on fundamental human rights and human freedoms as well. Indeed, article 21, which grants the right to information is on general fundamental freedoms. So where exactly are we? Are we approaching it as a fundamental human right or a fundamental human freedom?
Hon Members, it is about 10 minutes to 4.00 p.m. Hon Majority Leader, unless there is any urgent issue, I intend to bring proceedings to a close.
Mr Speaker, I agree with the second leg of the issue that you have raised.
The House was adjourned at 3.52 p.m. till Friday, 8th June, 2018, at 10.00 a.m.