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?