The Fourth Estate, headed by Manasseh Azure Awuni, a non-profit, public interest and accountability investigative journalism project of the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)., with the aim to promote independent and critical research-based journalism, that holds those in power answerable to the people they govern, with their focus is the fight against corruption, especially in the public sector.
In mid of last month, the Minerals Commission had demanded $1,000 (GH¢5,700) from The Fourth Estate in order to provide information requested under the Right to Information (RTI) Law, as the Fourth Estate had requested information on companies licensed to undertake mining in Ghana between January 2013 and May 2021, and companies whose licenses have been revoked or suspended within the same period.
A response to The Fourth Estate’s request signed by the Chief Executive Officer of the Minerals Commission, Martin K. Ayisi, said:
“Kindly be informed that in accordance with section 75 of Act 989, Section 103 of the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006 (Act 703), as well as Regulation 4 of the Minerals and Mining (Licensing) Regulations,2012 (LI 2176), the application fee payable is the Ghana Cedi equivalent of five hundred US Dollars (US $500) per request. Thus, the applicable fee payable for the above information is the Ghana Cedi equivalent of one thousand US Dollars (US$1000).”
Inferring from this, the Fourth Estate had petitioned the Right to Information (RTI) Commission and together with an earlier petition on same matter, the petitions are the first the RTI Commission is receiving since it was inaugurated in October 2020.
Well, fast forward, the Right to Information (RTI) Commission has annulled the decision by the Minerals Commission to demand the cedi equivalent of US$ 1,000 as fees for information The Fourth Estate requested.
The RTI Commission reversed the decision in a landmark decision following an application for review filed by The Fourth Estate, a journalism project of the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA).
The Fourth Estate had indicated in its request letter to the Minerals Commission, Ghana’s mining regulator, that it preferred the information in a PDF format. It also provided an email address to the Minerals Commission through which the information could be sent.
The Minerals Commission demanded $1000 (GH₵ 6000) for the information despite the fact that the RTI law says fees charged for RTI requests should cover only the cost and time for reproducing the information.
The Minerals Commission defended the decision and cited its governing laws to back the fee charged.
Martin Kwaku Ayisi, Acting Chief Executive Officer, Ghana Minerals Commission
Reacting to the decision of the RTI Commission, a private legal practitioner and strong advocate of the right to information, Samson Lardy Anyenini, said it was “progressive” and signified fidelity to the law.
“I wish they had held the request to be about information in the public interest and therefore not liable to any fee. I know the issue of public interest can be controversial. But this is such fidelity to Act 989, especially the critical sections 75 and 85.
“ It is very progressive and set to get information holders to act in compliance with the law by requiring fees only to cover the true cost of reproduction of information requested by the public,” Mr. Anyenini said.
“ I have faith this decision will also be a good guide to judges who are not that familiar with the law and matters of RTI generally. The Commission has, by its first decision, put itself in the right and hallowed place of the history of the development of the RTI regime in Ghana,” he added.
Lawyer SAMSON Ayenini sharing this on his Facebook page, attracted commentary, such as:
Naaba Adongo writes "Good news."
Ernest Asigri writes "There is great hope for the future for RTI in Ghana. This is a landmark decision that should impact positively on public officers and institutions attitudes towards future RTI requests."
Joseph Adobor writes "We are so messed up. How can u use such ridiculous demands to deny a statutory right"
Sam Fisher writes "A public institution in a very long while has done something praise worthy, to help people fight against corruption. Kudos to them, my fervent prayer is that, no harm comes to him as a result of this bold decision."
Dee PK writes "Good news, Democracy wins"
Mathias Amedekey writes "Great one sir...You are one of the most respected lawyers Ghana could ever look up to.. Glory on.. kudos..."
Ebenezer Annan writes "Thus is the first bigger new in the year! Congratulations for your good fight..... It was the same institutions that gave attention to and rewarded this."
Kofi Bentil writes "Wonderful. Very useful precedent !!!"
Samson Anyenini replied "The law is so plain ooo, boss."
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