By Cosmas Sunguro
Transparency remains a vital cog in the attainment of economic growth of a country. It is a critical component in the Open Government Partnership ( OGP). Zimbabwe as a country needs to consider this important unique model. OGP is regarded as a culture of governance based on innovative and sustainable policies and practices inspired by the principles of Transparency, Accountability, and Participation that fosters democracy and inclusive growth.
In the aforementioned definition, a government is considered open when it follows the principles of Transparency, Accountability, Participation and Inclusion. It is the doctrine that all government business should be open to regulation and scrutiny by the public. This document focuses more on transparency as one of the principles that makes up the OGP. Transparency concerns public access to information held by Government. In this case it is important that information is publicly available and accessible. Accessible to even ordinary citizen, In a palatable manner, not in complicated technical jargon. Section 62 (1) of Zimbabwe Constitution provides that, ” Every Zimbabwean citizen or permanent resident, including juristic persons and the Zimbabwean media, has the right of access to any information held by the State or by any institution or agency of government at every level, in so far as the information is required in the interests of public “.
Zimbabwe needs to embark on some open government reforms. Thus, Government data has to be freely available for anyone to use, reuse, distribute or share with others without restrictions. The Open government reforms have the potential to improve the governance and performance of democracy, equality, public services and improve the standard of living for communities. It is said to empower citizens, community organizations, civil society and other groups to take collective action to achieve social- economic outcomes.
Disclosing government data brings transparency in government transactions and makes them accountable for their actions. It facilitates public scrutiny and evaluation of government performance. Open data helps in efficient use of resources, designing customised service delivery and creation of more jobs. It helps people to make informed decisions about public policies and identify development opportunities. Through all its endeavours, open government data helps to achieve the SDGs. Open data can expose and prevent mismanagement and corruption. It also results in developing trust, credibility and reputation as a country.
Having access to information also stimulates public education and community engagement. Very often communities are left wondering how much received from say proceeds from mining of diamonds in Chiadzwa. Lack of transparency breeds animosity and speculation. In most cases it ends up with demonstrations as show of discontent. A recent case in point is in Chiadzwa where there were demonstrations by traditional leaders and Chiadzwa community on 28 October and 01 November 2021. They were demonstrating against Anjin mine where a Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC), a company wholly owned by government of Zimbabwe is also part of the mining venture.
As Publish What You Pay Zimbabwe,we are campaigning for mining contract disclosure to enhance transparency and accountability for improved community benefit share, also encouraging companies to disclose the contracts they entered with the government. Thus, ensuring that organizations and government are open and accountable in their conduct. A closer look into the OGP principles reveals that issue of transparency is not new phenomenon. Section 298 (1) (a) states that, ” there must be transparency and accountability in financial matters” and (d) emphasizes that,” …public funds must be expended transparently, prudently, economically and effectively “.
With regards to above information, OGP stands up as one of convenient ways that a responsible government would pursue. An interesting area would be Budget transparency where it usually refers to the full disclosure of all relevant fiscal information in a timely and systematic manner. ” It is a multi-dimensional concept addressing the clarity, comprehensiveness, reliability, timeliness, accessibility and usability of public reporting on public finances, as well as citizen engagement in the budget process”. As a nation riddled with budget deficit its important that citizens are well informed with comprehensive and reliable information. Some of the most important benefits of budget transparency include enhanced accountability, legitimacy, integrity, inclusiveness and quality of budget decisions all of which could ultimately develop trust between governments and citizens.