Tag Archives: transparency

Chart of the week #23: Popular support for open government?

Do people in Tanzania, and elsewhere, support the idea of open government? It’s not a question that is asked very often, but a new dataset collected by the World Bank and others seeks to rectify this.

They asked people in 62 countries – including six in Africa – a short set of questions. Here’s some of the data for Africa – choose a question from the list on the right:

The data was collect through an internet survey, which means the data is dominated by responses from wealthier folks in urban areas. But with that caveat in mind, and focusing on Tanzania in particular, what can we see?

Well, a majority said they thought the government was already open (51%) or somewhat open (29%), but nevertheless, a solid three quarters of respondents expressed support for open government. This doesn’t vary much with the different questions asked:

  • 77% would like government to be more open
  • 76% would trust government more if it were more open
  • 75% would like more information about government
  • 78% said citizens should have a say in government spending and contracting
  • 75% said they thought government would be more effective if it was more open

Does the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) apply to Tanzanian NGOs?

IATI cartoon

Twaweza published its first set of IATI data last week. By doing so, Twaweza joined 276 other organisations sharing data on their work in a common standard. And since doing so, I’ve been asked several times why we have done this: isn’t IATI something for official aid agencies like DFID and USAID, and for the bigger international NGOs? Continue reading

President Kikwete on avoiding the resource curse, and transparency in company registrations

President Kikwete spoke in Washington earlier this week, as part of the US-Africa Leadership Summit. The clip below comes from the Civil Society Forum Global Town Hall event, where he shared a platform with US Secretary of State, John Kerry, and Vice President, Joe Biden, and the Ghanaian President, John Dramani Mahama, among others.

The questioner asks first what Tanzania is doing to avoid the resource curse, and second what message the President has for SADC leaders about Robert Mugabe and the situation in Zimbabwe. President Kikwete neatly avoids the second, but gives a lengthy response to the first. The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) gets a mention, though there is nothing on transparency in extractives’ contracts.

I did note, however, an interesting remark on transparency in company ownership registers:

“We are now working on transparency with regard top who owns what – who is who in terms of ownership of the companies that are operating in the country.”

The full session is also available on YouTube, as is another session at the same event, featuring my boss, Rakesh Rajani of Twaweza, in a discussion about the Open Government Partnership in Africa.

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? Continue reading

Ten key features of a good Freedom of Information law for Tanzania

Late last year, President Kikwete announced that his government will pass a Freedom of Information Act:

“We are now working on enacting a freedom of information law. We are working on that one, we think by April next year, we will send to parliament this bill, and have it enacted. It is giving the common Tanzanian citizen the right to have information from government.”

“We are talking of the people, the government becoming more open, people having greater access to information, and when they ask for this information, they should not be seen as venturing into territories that are not theirs. … If people want information on how medicines are distributed, if they want information about budgets for their primary
school, then they should have the right to know this.”

Tz map flag FOIThe timetable has slipped, but the proposed bill is prominent in the new action plan for the Open
Government Partnership. And according to the Minister of Constitutional Affairs, Dr Asha-Rose Migiro, progress is being made on a draft law.

As so often, however, the devil is in the detail. Freedom of Information can be very powerful, but until we see what the new law looks like, it is impossible to know whether it will deliver on its potential, or will end up as a missed opportunity.

So, what does a good Freedom of Information law look like? Continue reading

Why we need leaks: transparency and whistleblowing in gas contracts

It’s good to see the Statoil gas story continues to make headlines in the Tanzanian press. Today (Monday) saw The Citizen lead with the story, asking some very pertinent questions about the contract and TPDC’s response to it.

Citizen 140714

The article quotes me at length, along with a statement released by TPDC (Swahili, pdf) over the weekend, which argues that the deal is a good one for Tanzania.

I disagree with the TPDC statement, which I feel continues to misunderstand the issue. They are still not engaging with the key point: that the terms of the signed PSA (the leaked document) are significantly worse for Tanzania than the terms of the model PSA.

But it’s actually a different point I want to focus on here: transparency. Continue reading

The sound of silence, breaking?

elephant in the room

The leaked Statoil contract (see here for background) is a big deal. Tanzania could well lose out on several hundred million dollars a year from just this contract (compared to the terms of the model contract). It should be the big political story of the moment, perhaps of the year.

And yet:

When the parliamentary committee on economic affairs, industry and trade noted the bad deal in a report (pdf, Swahili), it led to zero coverage in the media.

When the World Bank launched their latest Economic Update on Tanzania, two weeks ago, the Statoil contract was apparently the hot topic on the meeting sidelines. The media still said nothing. Continue reading