Tanzania declared its intention to join OGP during the launching meeting in September 2011, one of six in Africa that qualified to be involved in the OGP. South Africa, and most recently, Kenya, have already delivered their written transparency commitments, and Liberia and Ghana are set to provide draft action plans before the end of this year. Tanzania presented and submitted its action plan during the OGP Brasilia2012 annual meeting, thus becoming the ninth government represented on the Steering Committee. Since its initial intentions, Tanzania has certainly made progresses, but more could still be done.
Initially the development of the action plan was criticized by civil society organizations and independent commentators both for its lack of ambition and for the disorganised process of consultation. However, the action plan was eventually drafted and can be summarised as follows:
- Citizens’ budget document developed and posted on websites
- Joint forum between government and CSOs to monitor OGP commitment established
- Web-Based water point mapping system for local government
- Online publication of orders and receipts of medical supplies
- Disbursement of capitation grants to schools published
Tanzania was among the countries praised by Hillary Clinton in her opening speech in Brasilia for creating “citizens’ budgets” that explain in plain language how public resources are spent. Tanzanian minister for the President’s Office Mathias Chikawe explains below the benefits of one of such initiatives:
During the consultation there was consensus that the government should prioritize access to information. This is reflected in the government’s vision of what open government means, as explained by Joseph Meza, Principal Secretary, President’s Office- Public Service and Good Governance.
Commitments in the social sectors are also strong – as highlighted by President Kikwete in his speech (watch the video here) to the Brasilia Annual Meeting. President Kikwete also said the performance of the Parliament was among areas which Tanzania had been successful. “One good example is the conduct of the Tanzanian Parliamentary role of oversight on the Government. It is done without encumbrance or interference from the Government or Judiciary. Parliamentary sessions are broadcast live on television. The people of Tanzania see their representatives asking questions and demanding satisfactory answers from government. Where necessary, they form select committees to probe some issues .” Rakesh Rajani, head of Twaweza.org, a citizen-centered initiative, focusing on large-scale change in East Africa, underlined that
open government matters even more in East Africa because the stakes are so high- a matter of life and death
so the progresses described above are most welcome.
There is still room for improvement
Despite what is described above, there is still room for improvement in Tanzania. One of the main challenges for the country is that only 2% of the population has access to the internet, making it difficult to effectively sharing information across the country.
The Tanzanian government could also accelerate the process for adoption and implementation of access to information law. The action plan promises to “study global best practice of freedom of information laws in order to generate inputs for preparation of a potential freedom of information Bill”, and the OGP is looking forward to that, and other commitments, becoming reality.
Are you involved in a project to increase citizens’ access to the internet, in Tanzania or elsewhere? How does it impact on the delivery of open government?