The Head of Access to Information Division of the Information Services Department, Dr Winnifred Nafisa Mahama, has charged Right to Information (RTI) officers to be proactive, serve applicants diligently and timely.
She encouraged the Heads of RTI Directorates, Departments and Units to abreast themselves with the duties and requirements of the RTI law and ensure that no person or persons are denied access to information since the implications of such willful denials are consequential.
Dr Mahama said this at the launch of the Right to Information Unit and Manual at the Ministry of Health (MoH) in Accra on Friday.
She applauded the MoH for demonstrating a commitment to running an open, transparent and accountable administration that gives access to citizens to seek information from the Ministry.
“Certainly, this will entrench democracy and, as much as possible, nip corruption in the bud,” she stated.
She urged the Ministry to publish the information in line with the guidelines issued to all public institutions by the Right to Information Commission by keeping a copy at the front desk or reception and publishing a downloadable copy on its website.
“It is also important to distribute copies to the agencies and departments under your Ministry to guide either their information officers or focal persons for RTI on which requests to transfer or refer to the Ministry,” she added.
The Deputy Minister for Health, Madam Tina Gifty Naa Ayeley Mensah, noted that the event marked a turning point in the RTI development at the MoH.
She explained that access to information was a fundamental human right, adding that the occasion was a “MUST HAPPEN ONE” because it was vital for the RTI Act’s implementation.
“Gone are the days when access to information was very difficult, now there is beautiful dawn that has given light to access Information,” she stated.
She said transparency was essential to building trust in the relationship between the state and society.
“The releasing of government information has traditionally been treated with great care. A lot of information is perceived as confidential information simply on the notion that it is a ‘government document’. Information is very expensive and vital,” she said.
Madam Mensah noted that the Right to Information Act imposes duties on all public officials.
“For the law to be implemented, all officials who work at public organizations need to be committed to the ACT because they are the ones who will create and manage the information that the public will be requesting.
“If they don’t understand their duties properly or if they are not committed to implementing the law, then its effective operation will become more difficult and your agency or the government can incur liabilities,” she added.
On his part, the Head of Legal, Governance, Regulatory and Research of the RTI Commission, Mr Stephen Owusu, said anyone who applies for information from a public institution is not required to provide a reason unless the applicant requests that the application is treated as urgent.
He lauded the MoH for making a conscious effort to put up an RTI unit and Manual which would promote transparency and accountability.
“Corruption only thrives in secrecy and the RTI will promote transparency and accountability,” he stated.
Patience Anaadem, ISD