Private Legal Practitioner, Lawyer James Kofi Afedo, has secured a ruling from the Right to Information Commission (“RTI Commission”) directing the Ghana Revenue Authority (“GRA”) to provide him with figures on the amount of tax money collected on sanitary pads since 2015.
The RTI Commission’s directive came after Mr. Afedo appealed against an earlier decision by the GRA refusing to provide him with that information. According to the GRA, since there is a pending case at the Supreme Court regarding the sanitary pad taxes, it could not grant Mr. Afedo’s request.
Dissatisfied with the GRA’s decision, Mr. Afedo applied for internal review by the Commissioner-General. However, in a letter dated 29 August 2023 and signed by the Commissioner General, Rev. Dr. Ammishaddai Owusu-Amoah, the GRA affirmed its earlier decision that the data was exempted from disclosure.
Finding the GRA’s refusal unsatisfactory, Mr. Afedo petitioned the RTI Commission for a review.
To him, “the basis for the GRA’s decision to refuse him access to the information was gravely misconceived.”
The RTI Commission, upon receipt of the petition wrote to the GRA to provide the requested information for its review to ascertain whether it was exempted from disclosure or not.
Having received the GRA’s response, the RTI Commission in a letter dated 17th January 2024 held as follows: “Upon examination of the documents submitted, the Commission does not find the information contained there as being information which is exempt from disclosure under the Right to Information Act, 2019 (Act 989).”
It ordered the GRA to furnish Mr. Afedo with “The information on the amount of taxes, levies and excise duties collected by the Ghana Revenue Authority to be made available to Mr. James Kofi Afedo (the Applicant) in the form presented to the Commission” within seven (7) days of receipt of the Commission’s letter.”
Reacting to the outcome of his appeal to the RTI Commission, Mr. Afedo said “this is great news, and we are grateful to the Commission for agreeing with us. This is information which should have been made public in the first place. But the GRA decided to waste almost five (5) months of our time until it is forced to do what it knows is right to do. For us, we are ready to go the long hall to ensure justice for the women and girls of our country.”
He added that “should the GRA choose to disobey or disrespect the orders of the RTI Commission, we are ready to use the authority of the Courts of justice to force them to comply.”
Mr. Afedo is one of the Plaintiffs in the Supreme Court case challenging the imposition of taxes on sanitary pads.
According to him, “for every pack of sanitary pad purchased by our women and girls, the Government collects over 60% of the price as taxes, levies, charges and fees. This is unfair. This is discriminatory and should not be allowed to continue. That is why we are in Court”
Lawyer Afedo and his Foundation sued the Attorney-General, the Speaker of Parliament and the Commissioner-General of the GRA at the Supreme Court seeking a declaration that the laws under which those taxes are being collected are discriminatory on the basis of gender, violate the rights of women and girls to education, health, and work, and are against the Constitution of Ghana.
They are also asking the Supreme Court to order the Government to refund all the taxes collected from women and girls since the inception of the sanitary pad taxes.
On the back of Mr. Afedo’s suit, Member of Parliament for Madina, Lawyer Francis Xavier Sosu tabled a private member’s bill for amendment of the tax law to make the taxes on the sanitary products zero-rated or reduced to…..
In what appears to be a latent reaction to the suit and the bill introduced in Parliament, the Government passed an amendment to the tax regime to made the taxes on locally manufactured sanitary products zero-rated.
However, Mr. Afedo believes the effort though commendable, is not far-reaching enough. “It is a mere scratch on the surface,” he said.
“The only outcome that would be fair and just to women and girls is a total removal of those taxes. Period!” Lawyer Afedo added.