RTI: Finance Ministry directs media house to Chief of Staff for info on National Cathedral funding, others

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The Finance Ministry says JoyNews should re-direct its request for information on the amount of money it has released for the building of the National Cathedral and related matters to the Office of the Chief of Staff.

The controversies surrounding the financing of the project heightened following the announcement by the Finance Minister of the release of some ¢25 million to the project consultants in May 2022.

This was the second time money tagged as “seed money” was being released except that in the first instance the amount involved was $25million and it was said to have been paid in November 2020.

Despite the issuance of about three press statements, many were still unclear in their minds about the financing arrangements for the construction of the Cathedral which had been described by the President as a “priority of priorities”.

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The most important question was how much had been promised, allocated and disbursed by the finance ministry from the national kitty for a project which was not meant to unduly burden the taxpayer.

It is this quest for clarity on these critical issues that compelled JoyNews, pursuant to the Right to Information Act (2019) ACT 989, to write to the Ministry of Finance and the National Secretariat of the National Cathedral Project, seeking information in the form of responses to the following questions:

1. How much will the entire project cost?

2. How much of that total cost is being borne by the state?

3. How much of the cost is being borne by the Christian community and other non-state sources?

4. How much has the state and the finance ministry released so far towards the construction of the national cathedral?

5. How much has been raised so far from private fundraising activities and donations from churches and the Christian community towards the building of the national cathedral?

6. How much has the state and the finance ministry released so far to the project architect, Adjaye and associates?

7. When and why did the government and the national cathedral secretariat engage and release public funds to Ribade Company Limited?

But in response, the Ministry, in a letter dated August 17, said “we wish to indicate that you re-direct the request to the Office of the Chief of Staff at the Office of the President, which supervises the operations of the National Cathedral Secretariat”

The letter signed by Coordinating Director, Eva E. Mends for the minister, cited section 20{1}{b} of the RTI law which states that: 

“Where a public institution is unable to deal with an application because the information requested is in the custody of the public institution, but it is more closely related to the functions of another public institution, the information officer shall, within two days of the receipt of the application, refer the applicant to the relevant public institution or transfer the application to the relevant public institution and give written notice of the transfer to the applicant”.

This means that even though the ministry of finance may have the information being requested by JoyNews, the ministry is convinced the Office of the Chief of Staff at the Presidency which supervises operations of the national cathedral secretariat is better placed to provide the answers.

JoyNews is however yet to hear from the National Cathedral secretariat which received the same request sent to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

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