The making of an open govt (2)

President John Magufuli and his predecessor Jakaya Kikwete during a past ruling party CCM meeting. The fourth phase government under Mr Kikwete has been lauded for initiating expansive openness under the Open Government Process, and now all eyes are on the incumbent leader, President Magufuli to see how much further his administration takes this globally-accepted concept in public governance.   PHOTO | FILE 

What you need to know:

Despite the challenges that the Open Government Process faces in Tanzania, still we cannot undermine its importance in governance of national resources

As I said in the previous article, Tanzania joined the Open Government Process (OGP) in 2011 largely due to personal efforts of President Jakaya Kikwete and Rakesh Rajani. These two figures were the Tanzanian pro-open government activists.

Global Integrity in its report, quoting one open government expert, says that “President Kikwete and Mr Rajani were motivated to embrace and promote OGP in large part because of its potential to provide momentum to on-going reform efforts”.

Therefore, this section is dedicated to a discussion on how OGP was institutionalised, the principles of OGP, benefits that Tanzania has got from OGP, and constraints facing the implementation of open government agenda in Tanzania.

The report further shows that OGP’s national action plan processes in Tanzania provided a forum to some pro-reform actors to promote an open government agenda.

The report says, “These processes may have modestly affected the sustainability of open government in Tanzania, and have also resulted in some limited state–civil society engagement that otherwise would not have occurred”.

The existence and sustainability of OGP, however, depended highly on the interests of individual leaders. So, it is difficult to speak of institutionalisation, or the transformation of open government principles and processes on the basis of OGP.

Principles of OGP in Tanzania

OGP does not rank countries according to their levels of transparency. Rather, the OGP supports and encourages member countries to engage in participatory governance processes, by which citizens and civil society work together with the government to implement desired reforms. The OGP process requires government to consult with civil society and citizens, and the Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) assesses the quality of this consultation.

OGP, therefore, depends very much on a stable and amicable relationship between government and civil society. Governments are expected to actively collaborate with civil society when drafting and implementing country commitments, as well as when reporting and monitoring their progresses.

It is from that perspective the OGP in Tanzania had to involve both government and CSOs representatives in the steering committee.

How has Tanzania benefitted?

Global Integrity (GI) explains that the introduction of OGP in Tanzania created a space in which the government and at least some civil society groups negotiated the changes they wanted around some narrow reform areas.

However, the GI’s report also found that a small number of government officials and a limited number of CSOs have dominated OGP in Tanzania.

As discussed in the first article, several months after the government joined OGP, in 2012, the first steering committee was established. The government was represented by the ministries of Finance, Water, and Health, as well as the Prime Minister’s Office of Regional Administration and Local Governments, and the President’s Office of Public Service Management.

Twaweza oversaw the selection of other CSO representatives in the steering committee. As it was explained previously, the efforts to incorporate influential CSOs like Policy Forum, Sikika and HakiElimu interested in the process were unsuccessful.

In the end, Repoa and the Media Council of Tanzania (MCT) joined Twaweza as CSO representatives on the steering committee. These CSOs were selected because they were all engaged at different levels in promoting the open government agenda in Tanzania.

For example, these organisations had been involved in the design and review of the National Anti-Corruption Strategy and Action Plan. These CSOs were also able to bring experience and capacity to engage the government on policy matters.

GI further explains that, “They joined the Steering Committee under the conviction that they would be able to engage the government and shape policies and National Action Plan initiatives to bring meaningful changes to the governance of the country”.

As previously discussed, the first steering committee was not very successful – few of the commitments on the first national action plan were implemented - and so the second steering committee was formed in 2014. It involved more actors from both the government and CSOs, the view being that this would improve its effectiveness.

The second steering committee involved key stakeholders including representatives from the investors, donors, from the government, and new civil society representatives (namely, the Tanganyika Law Society (TLS) and FCS, both of which are amongst the largest CSOs in the country). Moreover, as stated in the report: “Tanzania’s commitments on the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) provided an added incentive for including the ministry responsible for extractive industries.”

Indeed, participation in EITI – which Tanzania joined in 2011 to promote transparency, credibility, and accountability in extractive industries - encouraged the government to try and leverage OGP to promote its commitments tied to extractives and land issues.

It is further argued that the commitments in the second action plan were selected according to consultative discussions involving stakeholders who were invited by the Steering Committee. The selection of priorities was deemed to have been based the country’s priorities outlined in the five-year development plan 2011/12–2015/16.

The chosen priorities were also meant to contribute to achieving overall government objectives, including those integrated into other initiatives like TEITI. Other OGP inputs provided some support for broadening participation and voice in the open government agenda.

Constraints on implementation

The constraints faced OGP could be best explained by examining the feasibility of the country’s commitments; namely, its implementation capacity in terms of human and financial resources. It is very unfortunate that the OGP was perceived to be externally driven and hence lacked comprehensive support throughout relevant government departments and ministries.

The responsible ministries considered OGP to be a new bureaucratic burden to them rather than a complement to other reforms. And further to that, political tensions within the ruling party from the outset had frustrated efforts for enhanced public transparency.

Consequently, despite the highlighted efforts that government had shown in implementing the OGP in Tanzania, CSOs eventually accused the government of not honouring its OGP commitments.  There were also other external events such as constitutional review impasse, the 2015 general elections, and adversarial advocacy (laced with political undertones) by some CSOs that have undermined dialogue with the state and its ruling party - CCM.

Faraja Kristomus is an assistant lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaa