Lands Commission fined GHC100,000 for “refusing” to release information to OccupyGhana
The Right to Information Commission (RIC) has fined the Lands Commission an amount of GHC100,000 for failing to grant a request for information on state lands filed by the Occupy Ghana.
OccupyGhana, in June 2022, requested the Lands Commission to furnish it with information on all state lands that had been returned to their “original owners” among other details.
The group, after months of not being served with the information it requested under the Right to Information Act, 2019, sought the intervention of the RIC on the matter in September 2022.
The RIC, after interrogating the issues, delivered its ruling on 1 March 2023.
In the ruling, the RIC said correspondence between OccupyGhana and the Lands Commission showed that the latter “appeared to have been shifting the goalpost” until the intervention of the RIC was sought.
The RIC described the delay in the release of the information to OccupyGhana as a “gross disregard” for the application timelines under the law.
“The Commission also finds that the general posture of the Respondent towards the Applicant’s request bespeaks of inertia in giving out the information requested,” it said.
The RIC said OccupyGhana, being a public interest pressure Group, was well within its mandate and interest to ensure that property belonging to the State was well preserved for the benefit of the country and that management of such State property was done in an accountable manner.
In its conclusion, the RIC described the eight-month delay in the release of the information to the Lands Commission as unfortunate.
“In fact the posture of the respondent clearly showed that it had refused the Applicant’s request for Information,” it said.
The Commission, therefore, imposed an administrative penalty of GHS100,000 on the Lands Commission – payable not later than 14 days after receipt of the RIC’s ruling.
“The penalty so imposed shall attract an additional default penalty rate of 10% on the principal penalty sum of GHC100,000 in the event of default for any additional 14 days thereafter,” it said.
The RIC directed the Lands Commission to release a set of information to OccupyGhana, including a list of all public lands over, which government’s ownership or control has been relinquished, and the names of the person to whom those lands have been released; the respective sizes and locations (suburbs, towns/cities and regions) of all such lands, and the conditions of release, whether free, sale, lease or licence.
The rest of the information to be released are if the land has been leased, the amount of rent paid or payable, and any other amounts paid or received by government, if any, for each of such transactions.
The Occupy Ghana, in a statement, expressed gratitude to the RIC for the ruling.
The group said it would not rest until it got to the bottom of the matter.
“We, therefore, promise both the Lands Commission and the Government that they have not fully and finally heard from us yet.”
“And, while we are grateful for this ruling, we regret that the GHC100,000 administrative fine and any default penalties will be paid out of public funds, and not by those whose direct actions and omissions have led to this state of affairs,” it said.