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RTI Act: Presidency Cites Exemptions, Refuses to Release Full SML-KPMG Report

The MFWA's request was to invoke the RTI Act, which aims to promote transparency and accountability in government. However, the presidency's decision highlights the limitations of the Act and the need for a balancing act between disclosure and the protection of sensitive information.

The Office of the President has turned down a request from the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) to release the full KPMG report on the revenue assurance contract between the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) and Strategic Mobilisation Limited (SML).

The MFWA had requested the report under the Right to Information Act, 2019 (Act 989) on April 24, 2024, but the presidency cited exemptions under the Act to justify its decision.

In a statement released on Wednesday, May 8, 2024, the president explained that the report contains opinions, advice, deliberations, and recommendations that are crucial to the President’s decision-making process. According to the statement, disclosing this information would compromise the integrity of the deliberative process and reveal the thought process and considerations of the highest offices of the land.

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“Upon careful consideration and in accordance with section 5 (1) (a) and (b) (i) of the RTI Act, I regret to inform you that your request has been refused. Section 5 (1) (a) and (b) (i) states that information prepared for or submitted to the President or Vice President containing opinions, advice, deliberations, recommendations, minutes, or consultations, is exempt from disclosure and that disclosure of such information would compromise the integrity of the deliberative process by revealing the thought process, considerations, and influence on decision-making reserved for the highest offices of the land,” the statement said.

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While acknowledging the public interest in the GRA-SML contract, the presidency noted that the principal findings and recommendations of the KPMG report have already been made public in a press statement issued on April 24, 2024. This, according to the presidency, strikes a balance between transparency and the need to protect the deliberative process.

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“Understanding the public interest in the GRA-SML contract, the President has published the principal findings and recommendations of the KPMG report in a detailed press statement issued by the Office of the President on 24th April 2024. Thus, the public remains informed while respecting the statutory restrictions on specific disclosures,” it said

The MFWA’s request was to invoke the RTI Act, which aims to promote transparency and accountability in government. However, the presidency’s decision highlights the limitations of the Act and the need for a balancing act between disclosure and the protection of sensitive information.

The development may spark debate about the limits of transparency and the need for greater accountability in government contracts and decision-making processes. While the presidency has released some information on the GRA-SML contract, the withholding of the full KPMG report may raise further questions and concerns among stakeholders and the general public.

The founding Editor-In-Chief of The Fourth Estate Manasseh Azure Awuni, a lead investigator in the scandal took to Facebook to express his outrage over the treatment of the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) and vowed to fight for transparency.

He drew parallels with the past, noting that even without the Right to Information Law, President John Mahama released the white paper to the full GYEEDA report. Awuni pointed out the hypocrisy of the current administration, led by Akufo-Addo, who had demanded transparency from Mahama but now seems to be hiding something.

“What is Akufo-Addo hiding from us?” Awuni asked, emphasizing that the SML deal raises serious red flags. He warned that attempts to conceal the KPMG report would not make the SML scandal disappear and pledged to pursue justice for those involved, no matter how long it takes.

Manasseh Azure on Facebook criticising the Akufo-Addo government.

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