Attempts by some Ghanaians to use the Rights to Information (RTI) law to demand accountability from public office holders across the country have been met with stiffer opposition.
Sharing their experiences after an engagement with some Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDAs) and information officers in various public departments, applicants said they have been accused of either hiding behind political parties to make government unpopular or are tagged as opposition.
They added that in some situations, the MMDAs or heads of institutions want to know the reasons why these requests are been made and if one refuses to explain the reasons, information is finally denied.
This was made known during a public forum organized by the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) public forum on “Enhancing Citizens Access to Information Through Effective Implementation of RTI Law in Accra.
Speaking at the forum, the Executive Director for MFWA, Mr. Suleman Briama said the event seeks to create awareness on and how Ghanaians can use the law to demand for their rights and accountability.
Mr. Briama said an efficient RTI regime will minimise corruption, empowered citizen groups in target districts to make RTI requests and developed a monitoring tool to track authorities’ responsiveness.
He said base on this, MFWA has developed a handbook on how to use the law to access information.
In her presentation on research by the institution on how the media and the citizens have leverage on the law to demand information, the Programme Officer, Media and Good Governance of MFWA, Ms Adiza Moro Maiga said since the passage of the RTI law, MFWA had made a total of 91 requests mainly from the The 4th Estate and Citizen Groups.
Ms Maiga said the response pattern from the public institutions clearly shows that the RTI Commission needs to create more awareness at the regional, metropolitan, municipal and districts levels as many of these officers are ignorant about the law.
She said out of the 91-request made in three selected districts drawn from Ejura in the Ashanti, Ada in the Greater Accra and Sagnarigu in the Northern Regions indicate that 12 of the requests representing 13% were acknowledged and granted within 14 days, 28 requests representing 31% were also acknowledged and granted after 14 days, 42 representing 46% of the requests were denied and nine standing for 10% were other responses giving.
The research mentioned lack of absence of regional, metropolitan, municipal and district offices of the RTI Commission as a major challenge to denial of requests.
The Executive Secretary of the RTI Commission, Mr. Yaw Sarpong Boateng said the commission started work with only three staff members in 2019 and was increased to 24 in January 2021 and in October last year trained 200 officers who so far have gotten clearance from the Finance Ministry to be employed.
He said as part of creating awareness, the commission have travelled across the country to educate Ghanaians about the RTI law and the need for citizens to use the law to demand accountability.