OGP Tanzania: how’s that working out? Central Bank edition, with an update…

To hide reports from the public is a form of corruption. The right to information is a basic right under our constitution. We don’t want the shock of being told that the our Foreign Reserves have dried up.

Zitto Kabwe, MP for Kigoma North, lays into the Central Bank on his blog today – and his accusations are pretty serious.

His core allegation is that Tanzania’s international reserves – foreign currency held by the state –  are drying up, with the equivalent of just one month’s imports remaining. To be accurate he says it is a rumour he has heard. Generally, reserves equivalent to the value of three months imports are recommended (or so the IMF tells me), though Tanzania’s reserves have been hovering around five months equivalent in recent years.

His second allegation is that the Central Bank of Tanzania is deliberately concealing economic statistics – the most recent Monthly Economic Review is from December 2011 and that most recent inflation figure available from them is for November 2011. This seems pretty late. Is that their usual schedule? I hope not.

[The reports from recent months] are concealed deliberately – the Central Bank has them. This is negligence. The country pays bank staff fat salaries to do this work. Companies have been awarded tenders to print these reports. If the reports are not published, it is a theft to which we cannot close our eyes.

He closes with an ultimatum to Central Bank Governor Benno Ndullu: reports for all months up to April 2012 should be up on the site by May 14.

If his central allegation is correct, we are going through dramatic times. The most recent “months of imports” figure for the level of reserves is 5.3, for December 2010, a number that had been steady for the five years prior to that. One year on, and Tanzania’s trade balance had worsened by almost 100 percent to a deficit of TZS 8.5 trillion. In March of this year the government requested Balance of Payments support from the IMF, under a Standby Credit Facility. None of these are good signs.

The headline figures for reserves, trade balance and balance of payments conceal much. Oil imports for the emergency power plan, attempts by the Central Bank to stabilise the currency, rotting cashew nuts in the south and the invasions of commercial farms in the north: all of these affect those three numbers. But without those numbers, we can’t fully make the connections.

Zitto Kabwe makes the obvious connection to Tanzania’s Open Government Partnership commitments:

While the President is assuring the international community on on government transparency (#OGP), an institution like the Central Bank is concealing information that is crucial to the people and to those following public affairs. The President says Blue, while the Governor oversees Green.

Most recent reports are available here.


Remarkably, since Zitto Kabwe’s post this morning and me writing the above this afternoon, the Monthly Economic Reviews for January and February 2012 are up on the BoT site. Mind you, the January report is a 34 MB monster. I’m still downloading it. If it changes anything above, I’ll amend….


Tanzania’s OGP Action Plan: what’s in the works?

Tanzania’s Open Government Partnership Action Plan is finally ready. You can download your own copy from the OGP website. Happily, you can also compare it to the draft plan which was prepared last year. Go here, and you’ll find it under the ‘introduction’ tab.

The draft had a few highlights. Access to information legislation was an obvious one, as was a pretty tight commitment on public officials’ asset disclosure.

Both the draft and final plan are succint – the commitments cover just two pages more or less. So let’s compare the stand out ones.

On access to information, the draft made this commitment

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.

Daraja at the time described it as “so non-committal that it hardly deserves to be called a “commitment”.” It’s hard to argue with that.

So what does the final Action Plan say?

Study global best practice of freedom of information laws in order to generate inputs for preparation of a potential freedom of information Bill

I’ll let you be the judge as to whether that is a strengthened or a weakened commitment.

On the disclosure of public officials’ assets, the draft was robust:

Prepare legislative amendments and regulations to strengthen asset disclosures of public officials and make them accessible online by December 2012.

And the final Action Plan says?

Prepare legislative amendments and regulations to strengthen asset disclosures of public officials.

Not so much.

The draft was also surprisingly strong on land, committing to make available online details of all formally allocated plots, complete with ownership details and GIS coordinates. Perhaps not surprisingly, it has been pulled. I’d like to think it has been spiked for being over ambitious and costly.

The plan retains one anomaly – it still gives as a future commitment  the production of an “annual citizens’ budget document”. This is good news of course, and something that had been completed for this financial year last December. You can get your copy here.

Commitments in the social sectors are strong – indeed, these are what President Kikwete highlighted in his speech to the OGP Annual Meeting yesterday. Watch his speech here, from the 39 minute mark.

There’s plenty of useful stuff – publication of all sorts of data in machine readable format (and just on paper too, thankfully), but why limit it to health, water and education sectors? If tax exemptions in those sectors can be published quarterly, and tax exemptions to public officials are already published, then why not release all tax exemptions?

And will the various commitments to budget and expenditure disclosure, intra-government transfers and local level receipts and expenditure data combine to make a new way of doing business? I don’t know – but hopefully somebody reading this has the public finance management chops necessary to tell us.

And once again the lack of any commitments on extractive industries is a pity. All it needed was a paragraph recognising existing commitments under the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. But it’s not there. With a gas, and possibly oil, bonanza around the corner, this is a big gap.

But open government is not  built on plans alone. Initiatives that address essential sectors, are driven by people pushing their government and pushing themselves may open doors too. What might that look like round where you are?

8:30: Arrival, Coffee and Croissants

The use of social media to enlarge the democratic space in sub-Saharan Africa will not thrive without intervention by donors*

Discuss. The croissants will be served nine hours from now.

*From a Danida report that’s just out, Using ICT to Promote Governance and can be downloaded from Dunia ni Duara (to whom thanks for the pointer). To be discussed at a conference in Copenhagen today.

Going once….. going twice….

I have 200 of your school desks in the store. If it wasn’t for the election laws, I’d have brought them today. But if you vote for our candidate, I’ll call one head teacher after another and get them to you.

Part of a stump speech in the Kirumba Ward by-election campaign in Mwanza Municipality, reported in this week’s Raia Mwema ( my translation, not yet online*).

Competitive politics distorts policy making and public services. Discuss.

*Now online.

“Good Governance Pays” – Part le Pili

Crony 2012, posters by Will St. Leger, photographed by Darragh Doyle, 25 March 2012, Temple Bar, Dublin.

Those were the words of then Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern (pictured above….) in January 2008, addressed to Irish people living in Dar es Salaam. We applauded, enjoyed the booze and canapés and went home. Five months later, so did Bertie, resigning as his own party remained unable to protect him from the mounting evidence of his corruption and that of the wider political system.

I blogged his Dar speech at the time. It was too good to resist. Our venal leader at the plinth, praising his host President Kikwete for acting “decisively, openly and publicly” on the USD 130 million Bank of Tanzania fraud, was quite a sight.

And his venality was something we had all known about. Some months prior to his speech in Dar es Salaam, Bertie had completed his testimony to the Mahon Tribunal – an official inquiry into corruption in land planning and political financing from the late ’80s to late ’90s. His increasingly garbled accounts of his personal finances, the huge amounts of cash sitting in his office and being a Minister for Finance without a personal bank account left us in no doubt.

The Mahon Tribunal released its final 3,270 page report this week. It is amusing in the way in which it feels it has to lay out the first principals of accountability, transparency and combating corruption – in much the same way as your average ‘good governance’ consultant here might do preparing a report for either donors or the Tanzanian government.

But it doesn’t pull its punches in its pathology of Irish politics and public administration. “Corruption in Irish political life”, it tells us was “both endemic and systemic”. From Ministers down to local councillors, a “culture of impunity and invincibility” allowed this to happen.

Yet coming on top of the plea bargain between Britain’s Serious Fraud Office and British Aerospace over corrupt payments to secure business in Tanzania, donor country credibility on these issues has taken another hit. The average Good Governance Programme Officer’s job just got a little harder.

Bertie was a hugely popular politician working a system of patronage, strong arm political fundraising and, yes, cronyism. We all knew about it and we allowed it to continue.

But the upshot of that is a banjaxed (read: broken) economy and a disaffected populace. That is maybe the lesson that Tanzania can draw from the sorry affair. But the consequences of such disaffection here are more direct, for as we have seen, “there’s always a reason to riot in TZ”.

Very few readers in Ireland, so, if interested, a good place to start with coverage of the Mahon Tribunal is here, where you can find a link to the full report (63MB) and this useful introduction.

The posters pictured above are by Dublin “Mindful Vandal”, Will St. Leger, found through Darragh Doyle.

Raia Mwema on OGP: missed opportunity

Raia Mwema: usually one of Tanzania's more progressive and thoughtful newspapers

The long standing demand of good governance activists and those standing up to the secrecy surrounding public leaders’ wealth may be about to be addressed.

Raia Mwema has got its hands on a document proposing changes to the Public Leadership Code of Ethics Act including proposals to make wealth declarations public.

That, in translation, is Tanzania weekly Raia Mwema‘s opening paras on today’s front page splash, pictured above (online version is a week behind). They go on:

This document discusses the implementation of the Tanzania Open Government Partnership, to commence this year, similar to decisions made by the President of the United States, Barack Obama as well as by Brazil.

Raia Mwema is of course discussing Tanzania’s draft Open Government Partnership (OGP) plan. You can see it here,  on the central OGP website, or here on the Tanzanian government site  Any suggestion that they have some exclusive access is empty posturing. It has been out there for two and a half months. Pretence at exclusive access when discussing a download is common in the Tanzanian press.

So after all this time, what new insights has Raia Mwema to give us on the issue of leaders’ wealth declarations?

Our government sources say that some leaders opposed this proposal as they say it will cause trouble between the people and their leaders, while others who support the proposal say that those who got their wealth legitimately have nothing to fear.

With sources like that, Woodward and Bernstein can rest easy.

So what did Raia Mwema miss on the wealth declaration issue? Off the top of my head: any inquiry into the likelihood of it actually being implemented; any consideration of why Civil Society Organisations have been so quiet on these proposals; any thought given to support to these proposals from a couple of prominent politicians; any questioning of the appropriateness of proposed support from the Canadian government to the Ethics Secretariat.

It might have made for a good story – and it may have improved the quality of public dialogue on OGP, politicians and civil servants’ conflicts of interest and how we can move forward.

Discussion of Tanzania’s OGP commitments here have been uniformly pessimistic, but have sought to engage with the issues. By failing to do so, Raia Mwema has been truly cynical. And that makes me more pessimistic about OGP success in Tanzania.

The other Happy Valley

Should the Oxfam run guesthouse in Nairobi allow guests to use the swimming pool? That’s the burning question Duncan Green is asking on his popular Poverty to Power blog and he’s asking readers to vote on it. Duncan tells us that it’s closed to limit Oxfam’s reputational risk. What if it got out in the British press? Bad enough in the Daily Mail, but – the horror – imagine if it cropped up in The Guardian?

His post and question are interesting for how they reveal how disconnected your typical aid worker is.  And some of the comments only serve to drive this home – they really are worth a read.

My first position with an international NGO was in Hong Kong with International Social Service. I was an immigrant and was hired competitively and on ‘local’ terms – just like all my colleagues, at all levels. Like my colleagues at all levels the bulk of a modest salary went on rent. We worked  detention centres for Vietnamese asylum seekers. The environment was usually stressful and sometimes violent. We did our work as best we could, went home at the end of the day and got on with other things. For exercise I played football in Southorn Playground, a municipal football pitch in Wanchai. next door to the 42 storey Southorn Gardens which contained my expensive but tiny shared flat.

See that corner of football pitch? I used to patrol it as a particularly leaden footed right back

Then in 1996 I applied for a job with a European NGO and got posted to Dar es Salaam. Along with a reasonable salary I got housing, transport, food costs covered and driver to take me to the beach for a swim at the end of the day. And I was flabbergasted when I was told I could also have a free maid. My boss was flabbergasted at me being flabbergasted. But  he had been in the game then as long  as I am now.

The aid business is a very strange world. It sees itself as a world apart, which is self fulfilling. Thinking that yours is a world apart leads to both guilty hand wringing, as seen in Oxfam’s empty pool, and also a deeply unattractive  sense of entitlement, as seen in some of the comments on the post.

So, fill the pool, get wet and if people think that’s unacceptable you’ll soon hear about it. Just spare us the hand wringing.

Radio Tanzania Archives

A trip to  Saba Saba – Dar es Salaam’s annual trade fair, held in July – is incomplete without calling in at Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation’s (TBC) pavilion. Their collection of musical and other recordings is a treasure trove of  East Africana. Countless Nyerere speeches and the occasional radio commentary on classic Yanga v Simba encounters can be found. But understandably, most make for the music and its comprehensive collection of dansi music – East Africa’s signature big band sound. Dar es Salaam Jazz Band, Western Jazz Band, Atomic Jazz; Vijana Jazz; and of course DDC Mlimani Park and Ottu Jazz – it’s all there, and it’s all available on CD or casssette by request, for a fee. And it all draws on the hours of music recorded for broadcast since the 1970s that sit in the TBC archives, slowly deteriorating. You can even pick up some stuff by Tancut Almasi Orchestra. Great stuff – though problematic, as we shall see.

The Tanzania Heritage Project is hoping to change that. They are looking to digitise the archive and give this remarkable collection a new lease of life. And if you have a credit card, you can donate to help them do so.

But who owns the music? TBC has been selling cassettes and later CDs since the nineties. When a state broadcaster does so openly and for such a long time, one would expect that either they hold the rights or are paying the rights holders.

Not so, says musician John Kitime*. In a letter to the Minister for Culture, John Nchimbi, he claims that no effort has been made by TBC to ensure that performers get their rightful share of the sales proceeds. And he presents as evidence a tax receipt for a CD of tracks by Almasi Tancut- for which he can be seen playing rhythm guitar above. In translation:

It doesn’t take great wisdom to see that blatant theft has been underaken by a government agency, as there is even a receipt – our own government itself has been engaged in musical piracy. And this scandal went on even after the passing of the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights  Act of 1999.

Kitime’s letter goes on to relate a litany of public administration SNAFUs: unimplemented legislation, competing ministries, lost documentation, and a drunk at a gig claiming to be a tax official sent by State House to clear up matters. Most of that will be familiar to anyone dealing with public policy issues.

The above should not discourage the Tanzania Heritage Project – their website indicates good relations with TBC. If anything, it illustrates the depth of knowledge that  they can draw on, as well as giving a sense of the scale of the challenge. Agreeing on rights, defining a business model and ensuring payments will depend on building sound relationships with the musicians’ community and the bureaucrats alike – and they have already started on that.

Music was central to the forging of a Tanzanian national identity and the legitimacy of the state. It would be dishonourable if that same state were to deny those same musicians recognition of their contribution – and the payments that come with that.

*John Kitime is one of Tanzania’s more prominent public figures. He can be seen in the video above  on rhythm guitar and sporting Curtis Mayfield type glasses. He now leads Kilimanjaro Stars – one of Dar’s more popular live bands. He has two blogs. The letter referred to above is from Tanzania Artists’ Rights – a serious minded look at rights and related legal issues. He also has Kijiwe cha Kitime, where he curates a delightful collection of pictures, memories and music.

Tanzania’s Draft OGP Plan: what’s new?

As promised at the December 7 Open Government Partnership meeting in Brasilia, Tanzania has made its draft plan available for comment. The actual commitments are to be found in the final three pages. The preceding six pages are a mind numbing litany of just about every ‘good governance’ initiative attempted in the past. Skip them.

The Open Government Partnership was designed to be a race to the top, rather than a stick for member countries to beat each other with. In that spirit, Obama used the opportunity of the OGP launch to announce the USA’s commitment to EITI. Similarly, Brazil cites OGP involvement as being a key driver in pushing through a Freedom of Information Act. Based on very recent history and look at the draft plan, it is difficult to see any headline grabbing OGP inspired initiatives emerging in Tanzania.

So where do we stand? In total 22 OPG commitments are in the draft plan. Some are rehashed existing commitments. Some are aspirational  (wouldn’t it be nice if…?). A couple are notable and potentially serious. Commitments around income declaration for leaders and freedom of information are potentially game changing. While others are notable by their absence.

Existing commitments? There’s at least a couple. The promised Citizen’s Budget – presenting the annual budget in layman’s terms – is promised for July 2012: that would be for the 2012-13 budget. That’s great, though I understand that the Ministry of Finance had already promised to produce one for the 2011/12 budget – and it hasn’t happened yet. So, in effect, we’re already late with a commitment that is still only a proposal, if you know what I mean.

Another commitment is to ” [r]eview existing [local government] Service Boards and Committees and take appropriate measures to strengthen them in order to function properly by July 2013.”, which sounds like ongoing management and support to me. There are a  number of such commitments to help local government do what it is meant to do. It’s not clear how the OPG special sauce will help.

As for the aspirational stuff, wouldn’t it be nice if…. we had a website that explained how public services work? It could even be called Nifanyeje? Kind of like Ireland’s  more prosaically titled Citizens’ Information. A great idea, but what’s the opportunity cost?

As for the serious proposals, there’s a couple of them: a Freedom of Information Bill to be drafted by July 2012; and public officials’ income and asset declarations to be made available online.

The Freedom of Information Bill is the big one. It’s not a new issue in Tanzania – there’s been an unsatisfactory bill floating around since 2006. The ‘commitment’ in the draft OGP plan – to look at good practice globally “in the interest of preparing a potential freedom of information Bill by July 2012” – isn’t exactly a commitment per se. You think you’re in with a chance, but deep down you know that you’ll be getting a taxi home on your own again.

More concrete is the commitment to prepare legislative and regulatory amendments that would allow public officials income and asset declarations to be published online by December 2012. But this is not the first commitment to review the Public Leadership Code of Ethics Act. Nearly four years ago, in January 2008, President Kikwete made a high profile commitment to review the act in order to allow for the clear separation of politicians’ political and business interests. Concrete proposals were made and I understand, presented to Cabinet in May of last year. Nothing has been heard since.

And what has been left out? The obvious lacuna is any reference to EITI. The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative requires oil/gas and mining companies to disclose payments to governments – and requires governments to disclose receipts. Tanzania signed up to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative in February 2009 and has yet to meet the basic compliance requirements. The latest deadline for compliance (after at least two were missed) is February 2013. Full details here, including the small matter of over $36 million in receipts being unaccounted for.

Best advice to open government advocates in Tanzania? Focus on one big thing and don’t be distracted by the 21 other issues. The Freedom of Information Bill is the obvious one. Insist on living up to commitments, from the small ones (a citizen’s budget) to the big ones (EITI). Don’t be surprised if there’s no great popular uptake on this in the short term. People aren’t rioting for access to information. And be prepared for it all to be sucked up into the upcoming constitutional review.

Details on how to submit commentary on the draft plan can be found here.

Other commentary from Daraja and Vijana FM can be found here and here.

“There’s always a reason to riot in TZ”

So said a twitterer this week in a brief exchange on Tanzania’s series of riots over the past year. There are plenty of reasons: rising unemployment, increasing inequalities and a dismal education system come to mind.

For the past year, to go with the reasons, we have had plenty of riots. It is worth reminding ourselves of the extent of the trouble.

January saw two rioters killed in trouble surrounding a  banned demonstration in Arusha by opposition party CHADEMA.  Mwanza has seen trouble twice – in July and September, with over 130 arrests in July’s ruckus. Mbeya erupted in November, as did Tabora to a lesser degree, both incidents involving the army. Violent mass incidents have been markedly limited in Dar es Salaam, with the occasional half hearted demonstration at the university, though in the past 18 months  I have three times found myself in the middle of unhappy and seemingly spontaneous mobs in Dar es Salaam.

This all comes on top of the perennial violence at rural mining operations. This peaked in May of this year with over 1,000 involved in clashes with police and Barrick security at Barrick’s North Mara Gold mine that left five dead. Trouble is a daily occurence there. Tanzanian mining investors are not immune either, with one ruby miner’s trucks impounded by angry villagers in Dodoma Region the other day.

Proximate causes vary: party political activism; street trading disagreements; religion; student grants; natural resource rents; and, in Tabora, a soldier’s refusal to pay for a pair of trousers down the market.

This won’t have escaped the attention of political and security forces leadership. No doubt the CCM District level Political Committees have fascinating dossiers on the causes, patterns and implications of the unrest.

Certainly , security  forces and local governments will need to better understand these things – in order to predict, deal with them and maybe prevent them. Political parties already understand these dynamics, and the power that large groups of young men can have in both town and village. Chadema’s youth support can shut down public transport in Arusha, while their Red Guard militia face off against the Green Guard of CCM at every by election. There are few things as intimidating as a truckload of young men kicking up dust and insisting on a good reception as they roll through the village.

Parties may be happy to use young men purposively, but a with demographic bulge not matched by opportunity, that may backfire. It is unclear if  the parties have considered this.  Whether the state has the capacity to deal with the uncertainty is another matter. But the sooner we start seeing things through the lens of the demographic bulge, the better.

If nothing else, expect more riots.