19 Dec 2011

So what's in Tanzania's Draft Open Government Action Plan?

Tanzania's draft action plan for the Open Government Partnership has evolved and grown significantly since we last posted a draft on this blog. I've posted the full "commitments" section of the latest draft below, with the less interesting preamble, etc, removed - though the full text is also available online. This is the draft that came back from the recent OGP meeting in Brazil, and will be finalised for formal submission to the OGP in April 2012. 

The good news is that the latest draft now includes several very substantial commitments that were not in the earlier draft - particularly on transparency. This includes new commitments to publish a whole range of information ("all reports, studies, data, circulars and other public interest data") on Ministries' websites (3.1.iv); a "Citizens' Budget" each year (3.1.v); and details of all Tax Exemptions (3.1.ix). There's also a potentially powerful commitment to make public officials' asset disclosures available online (3.3.vi). And finally, there are some good ideas in the section on Technology as well: to publish budgets, disbursements and expenditure by TANROADS (3.4.iii); to put Ministry of Health, Water and Education databases online (3.4.ii); and to put detailed information on land allocations online (3.4.iv). 

There are also some disappointments as well, however. Most notably, the point (3.1.xi) on developing a Freedom of Information law is so non-committal that it hardly deserves to be called a "commitment". The useful point on waterpoint mapping (3.4.i) sets a deadline 2 years from now, for a task that should take just a few months. And there are still several points that commit only to ensuring that existing policies and legislation are properly implemented (e.g. 3.1.viii; 3.3.ii-v) without saying why things will be any different this time.

Finally, a presentational point, since presentation does matter. The way the plan is presented as simply a long list of commitments makes them look very disconnected and makes them difficult to digest. Several of the commitments could easily have been grouped under headline commitments - such as "to set up an open data portal, including the following information ..." - which would make the plan look stronger and easier to understand.

Let me leave it there for now, and encourage you to send your comments. You can do this either through official channels - see here for details - or by posting something on Naunga Mkono Uwazi Serikalini, a facebook page set up for this purpose.

And as promised, the draft plan is below. I also recommend VijanaFM's summary of the plan.

3. Open Government Commitments 
In order to improve and sustain the aforementioned  good governance efforts, the Government commits itself to implement the following: 

3.1 Transparency  
i. Provide overall dashboard of progress against Tanzania Open Government commitments and ensure that it is updated at least quarterly by July 2012. 
ii. Ensure transparency in ordering, supply and receipt of medical supplies from the Medical Stores Department (MSD), including online publication of medical stock availability to the facility level, by July 2013. 
iii. Strengthening Government Communication Units established in every Ministry, by establishing a clear set of standards  of practice and quarterly reports of performance, by July 2012. 
iv. Establish and strengthen ministerial websites and other government institutions websites, to post online within one month, all reports, studies, data, circulars, and other public interest data except that which compromises national security; for at least 50% of ministries by July 2012 and remainder ministries by July 2013. 
v. Produce citizens’ budget document every year in a simplified language (both in Kiswahili and English) and format that will make it easy for ordinary citizen to understand and analyze by July 2012. 
vi. Review formula based grant allocation system to suit current needs of the LGAs by December 2013, and publish all allocations to LGAs online. 
vii. Post quarterly disbursements and execution reports on MoF website in a friendlier format to allow analysis by interested stakeholders by July 2012. 
viii. Ensure LGAs abide to the existing requirements of posting approved budgets, disbursements and execution reports on the boards and public places (capitation grants, development grants, LGAs own revenue) by July 2013. 
ix. Publish all Tax Exemptions granted in machine readable format on Ministry of Finance (MOF) website by July 2012, and ensure is updated at least once per quarter. 
x. Encourage donors to exercise greater transparency of donor funding in Tanzania to all parties (government, civil society, etc) consistent with International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) principles by July 2012. 
xi. Study global best practice of freedom of information laws that enable citizens to readily access public information held by government, in the interest of preparing a potential freedom of information Bill by July 2012. 

3.2 Citizen Participation 
i. Ensure meaningful, high level citizen participation during public hearing process of law making by July 2013. 
ii. Improve  Tovuti ya Wananchi (Citizens’ Website) to make it more robust as a platform for citizens to participate in the running of Government by July 2012, and produce monthly reports on responsiveness of the citizen’s website. 
iii. Ensure wider participation of the citizens by sending comments through dedicated mobile telephone and get back responses by December 2012. 
iv. Establish an open forum together with civil society to review quality, integrity, depth and pace of progress against OGP commitments to be held twice per year starting March 2012. 
v. Establish a clear and reliable contact point and address for OGP communication with Government by January 2012. 

3.3 Accountability and Integrity 
i. Improve National Audit Office/Controller and Auditor General Website to make it more open and user friendly with machine readable data by December 2012. 
ii. Review MDAs/LGAs Clients Service Charters and make them accessible to citizens by July 2013. 
iii. Review existing complaints register to ensure that complaints received are attended and feedback on action taken is adequately documented and posted to the MDAs/Regions/LGAs website quarterly by July 2013. 
iv. Review existing LGAs Service Boards and Committees  and take appropriate measures to strengthen them in order to function properly by July 2013. 
v. Strengthen mechanisms for effective enforcement of laws, regulations, standing orders and circulars. 
vi. Prepare legislative amendments and regulations to strengthen asset disclosures of public officials and make them accessible online by December 2012. 

3.4 Technology and Innovation 
i. Finalize Water Point Mapping System for LGAs and make the data available online and other available communication  means to stakeholders for use in equity planning and budgeting by December 2013. 
ii. Strengthen the use of sectoral Management Information Systems (health, education, water), by making facility level (disaggregated to the dispensary, school and water point level) information available online in machine readable format by July 2013. 
iii. Provide information on allocations, disbursements and use of funds for all (rural and trunk) roads online managed by TANROADS and other relevant agencies.  
iv. Computerize and publish online in GIS coded format all surveyed plots and farms allocated to individuals/companies for easy retrieval and public reference. 
v. Explore the value and feasibility of establishing a ‘Nifanyeje?’ (how can I do it?) site where citizens can get practical information of how to go about getting government services (e.g. getting a driver’s license, business license, passport, scholarship for university, a water or electricity meter) and what to do if they are unable to secure the service in the required time. 
vi. Study global good practice on data disclosure and establish www.data.go.tz website that reflects high global standards to contain a substantial number of government held data sets in machine readable format by December 2012.