Eighty-five requests for information were received and processed in 32 public institutions in the first year of the implementation of the Right to Information (RTI) law in 2020, the Minister of Information, Mr Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, has said.
He said 72 of the requests, representing 85 per cent of the total, were granted while others were deferred, transferred, referred or declined in accordance with the Act.
This was contained in the annual reports of 219 public institutions on the RTI for last year.
Mr Oppong Nkrumah said that yesterday when he presented a statement on the implementation of the RTI Act 2019 (Act 989) for the period January to December 2020 in Parliament yesterday.
He also submitted to the House the 2020 annual report of the Ministry of Information and the RTI Commission on the implementation of the RTI Act by public institutions.
The minister said per Section 3(1) of the RTI Act, each public institution was required to compile and publish an information manual documenting the nature and scope of information that might be accessed by an applicant in that institution.
He said in the first year of implementation, a total of 285 public institutions were found to have complied with the requirement.
“I am happy to inform this House that for the first 12 months after the commencement of this Act, significant gains have been made in the implementation of the law by public institutions.
“Mr Speaker, at the beginning of 2020, 539 public institutions, comprising 263 ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) and 260 metropolitan, municipal, district assemblies (MMDAs), and 16 regional coordinating councils were captured in the ministry’s database as institutions required to implement the RTI law within the country,” the minister said.
Mr Oppong Nkrumah said between January and December 2020, a total of 478 information units were also set up across the 539 institutions in accordance with Section 3(3)(b) of the Act.
“A total of 1,055 officers were engaged to play various roles in the implementation of the Act.They comprised 478 designated RTI officers, 478 records officers and 99 recruited information officers who were trained and resourced to facilitate the processing of requests received by the institution,” he said.
The minister further informed the House that a governing board of the RTI Commission had been inaugurated. Members were sworn in by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo on October 19, 2020, in fulfilment of Section 40 of the RTI Act.
The commission serves as an oversight body for the implementation of the constitutional right of persons to access information.
The minister, who is also the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member of Parliament for Ofoase-Ayeribi, however, said the implementation of the RTI Act in 2020 encountered some challenges.
It includes the impact of COVID-19, delays by public institutions in submitting required documents, transfer of designated officers resulting in the loss of institutional memory regarding the RTI Act, and the non-compliance by some public institutions.
To address these bottlenecks and build on the gains made, he said the ministry, through the Access to Information (ATI) Division of the Information Services Department, had outlined some activities for implementation.
They include continuation of in-person training, further engagements with heads and frontline staff of public institutions on compliance, and the staffing of information units with dedicated officers from the ATI of the ISD.
Other measures are submission of a legislative instrument before Parliament, embarking on a nationwide public education campaign on RTI, as well as supporting Parliament to approve proposed fees and charges for the access to information.