The Right to Information to Promote Transparency and Accountability, and the Right of Protection provided by International and national laws within the Ghanaian Context
Recorded on 13 February 2023
The persons who occupy public office, including those created by the Constitution of Ghana, 1992, and all other enactments, and private organisations and institutions that perform public functions or receive public resources are accountable to the citizenry, particularly those whose taxes are used to set up public offices and pay their salaries either in whole or in part, or to provide or support private bodies to perform public functions. The term "public institutions" has a broader meaning within the context of access and the right to information than its ordinary meaning, which is limited to the institutions established by government or over which government has some sort of control. In most cases, persons who hold public office and those in private institutions that provide public functions or receive public resources fail to appreciate the fact that they are trustees and are accountable to the people of Ghana, who are the beneficiaries. As trustees, they are required to observe the fiduciary relationship between them and the people of Ghana by being transparent and accountable. Trustees are required to be loyal, faithful, prudent, impartial, accountable, and to protect the State's property that is under their control. There are international resolutions and instruments that were enacted to promote freedom of expression and the right to information. The UN Resolution 59(1) was passed in 1946, aftermath of the Second World War to make information accessible with the aim of preventing another world war arising from lack or absence of information. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was subsequently enacted in 1948 as a soft law and dedicated its Article 19 to the right to form an opinion and expression with some few restrictions. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) was passed in 1966 with the aim of protecting the civil and political rights of persons within its member states. Article 19 of the Covenant is on the right to hold opinions without interference and the right to freedom of expression. Ghana is one of the member states of the Declaration, which is binding on her under international law but does not form part of its sources of law because Ghana is a dualist country. There are other international human rights instruments such as the European Convention on Human Rights (1950), which came into force on 3rd September, 1953, and the American Convention on Human Rights, which came into force on 18th July, 1978. Both instruments have detailed provisions on the right to freedom of expression and to hold opinions, which may be applicable to Ghana as they are human rights provisions inherent in democracy and intended to promote the dignity of man under Article 33 (5) of the Constitution of Ghana. Ghana is a member of the African Union and the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, whose Article 9 is on the right to information with vague restrictions placed on the member states. The Charter also binds Ghana in international law but does not form part of its national laws and can be used under article 33(5) of her Constitution. The Constitution of Ghana has made provision for the right to information, in pursuance of which the Right to Information Act, 2019 (Act 989) was passed. The paper shall examine the Right to Information Act and the aforementioned international instruments to ascertain how they have made public officers accountable. There are a few other enactments that have an effect on the right to information, and the relevant sections of them shall be discussed. In conclusion, the paper shall examine the impact of the relevant laws and instruments on public officers and the protection given to the citizenry who seek information from them.
Speaker: Justice Dennis Dominic Adjei, IALS 2022-23 Inns of Court Judicial Fellow
Chair: Professor Carl Stychin, IALS Director