Openness and access to information are key attributes of a thriving democracy. One that makes governance transparent and participatory to the citizens, and strengthens the general trust in public institutions.
Access to information legislation all over the world ensures that public institutions proactively disclose information to the people, and also enables citizens to request for information from public institutions that are covered under the law. In 2019 Ghana passed the Right to Information (RTI) Act after over a decade.
For both Mr John Dramani Mahama and Nana Akufo-Addo, who are Presidential Candidates of the National Democratic Congress and New Patriotic Party respectively, they have had the opportunity to share their views on access to information while they were Members of Parliament between 1997 and 2009.
Following are some parliamentary contributions made by both presidential candidates on the Floor of Parliament.
John Dramani Mahama, “Mr Speaker, we even without a Freedom of Information Act have done our best to try to make information as freely available as possible not only to the press but to the generality of Ghanaians…
“Talking about the Criminal Libel Law, we on our side are of the belief that public officers in the course of their duties need some protection from malicious slander and libel by press houses.”. ([18-March-1998] Source: Hansard of Parliament)
Mr Mahama as Deputy Minister for Communications in 1998 outlined the efforts that his Ministry had put in place to ensure that the public had access to the information they required.
This was in response to some remarks made by Papa Owusu-Ankomah where he stated that every Ghanaian is entitled to right to information subject to certain limitations stated by the Constitution. And in addition, Papa Owusu-Ankomah stressed on the need for the Ministry to act on a Freedom of Information Act to regulate access to information.
Mr Mahama in his response to Papa Owusu-Ankomah mentioned that his side of the House believe that public officers in the course of their duties need some protection from malicious slander and libel by press houses.
And that a situation should not be created where very capable people who are in a position to hold responsible office in Ghana and be able to move this country forward are frightened to do so because they would be opened to libel and slander by the press.
Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo: “Everywhere in the world, at a certain stage, security records are open to the general public, Yes, everywhere in the world… it would be unusual if here in our country security records could be kept permanently away from scrutiny of the public and from historians. That will be most extraordinary.”. ([30-July-1997] Source: Hansard of Parliament)
As a Human Rights Lawyer, Nana Akufo-Addo supported the release of information regarding the security service after thirty years. This, he remarked in 1997 during his contribution to the debate on the consideration of the Public Records Administration Bill.
Nana Akufo-Addo (Ranking Member of the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs) was of the strongest view that records of the security agencies should be treated as all other records are treated, especially as they are part of public records, and are therefore subject to the disclosure provisions of the Act as it applies everywhere in the world.
The Chairman of the Committee, Mr. Alban S.K. Bagbin was caught in a long debate with Nana Akufo-Addo on whether or not a clause be inserted in the bill to allow for release of records of the security service after 30 years.
These statements are brought to you by Parliamentary Network Africa (PNAfrica) as part of its project to highlight the consistency or otherwise in the views and ideologies of both flagbearers of the two major political parties in Ghana, and to hold them accountable to their speech while in public office. PNAfrica is a parliamentary monitoring civil society organisation promoting open parliament across Africa.