A plan with (some) potential

Tanzania’s latest Open Government Partnership (OGP) Action Plan is now available, on the much-improved opengov.go.tz website. The plan covers the two years from July 2014 to June 2016.

The first action plan was a disappointment, with very few of the 25 commitments implemented. This time there are only five, but they are focussed and (mostly) ambitious:

1. Freedom of Information: To enact an FOI by December 2014.
2. Open Data: To establish an open data system by December 2016.
3. Budget Transparency: To make budget data (eight key budget reports), audit committee reports and tax exemptions publicly available by December 2014.
4. Land Transparency: Make land use plan, ownership and demarcated areas for large scale land deals accessible online for public use by June 2016.
5. Extractive Industries Transparency: Tanzania to fulfill its EITI commitments by June, 2015

The good points?

The commitments on Freedom of Information and Budget Transparency are very welcome, including the details. On FOI, the plan specifies what the law should include, which doesn’t differ greatly from what I posted yesterday.

On budgets, the commitment includes publishing a much greater range of budget documents than has previous been the case, including a pre-budget statement; the executive’s budget proposal; the enacted budget; a citizens budget; in-year reports on revenues collected, expenditures made and debt incurred; a mid-year review; a year-end report; and audit reports. And the plan specifies that these documents will be published in machine-readable formats, which makes it much easier for analysts, researchers and journalists to use them.

There are also two little gems hidden in the plan that could be very powerful.

First, there’s a commitment to “publish all tax exemptions, on a monthly basis.” Tax exemptions are a hot political topic, so making them transparent like this could have a big impact on what exemptions are offered, and on how much revenue is collected.

Second, activists and researchers have been waiting a long time for the government to publish a couple of datasets that are specifically listed here: census and other survey data from the National Bureau of Statistics, and ward and village boundary data.

And the disappointments?

The open data commitment is weaker in some of its details than I had hoped. The first key step listed is to establish a working group to explore the issue.

But the biggest disappointment is the detail of the commitment on extractive industries transparency. There is some good news – the promise to publish all contracts with mining and oil/gas companies signed from 2014 onwards. But that leaves a lot of past contracts that remain secret – contracts that related to natural resources that belong to the Tanzanian public, and that are potentially going to cost Tanzanians a lot of money. There was room for a much stronger commitment here, which hasn’t happened.

Overall, it’s a mixed bag – mostly good, some not so much. But the lesson from the first phase of the OGP in Tanzania is clear: it’s much easier to make commitments than to deliver. Implementation is what counts.

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Disclosure: I am my colleagues at Twaweza were involved in preparing this action plan, as part of the government / civil society partnership approach of the OGP.



One thought on “A plan with (some) potential

  1. Pingback: Tanzania’s draft extractive industries laws say a lot about transparency. Highlights and initial thoughts | mtega

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