The benefits of ‘open government’ and why Kenyans should own it - Daily Nation

The benefits of ‘open government’ and why Kenyans should own it

Wednesday July 13 2016

This photo dated February 20, 2012 shows Information Permanent Secretary Bitange Ndemo (second from right) addressing guests at a meeting on open data at Strathmore University. With him are are @iLab Africa director Joseph Sevilla (left), Information and Communication Technology Board Chief Executive Officer Paul Kukubo (second from left), and World Bank managing director Caroline Anstey. PHOTO | PHOEBE OKALL | NATION MEDIA GROUP

This photo dated February 20, 2012 shows Information Permanent Secretary Bitange Ndemo (second from right) addressing guests at a meeting on open data at Strathmore University. With him are are @iLab Africa director Joseph Sevilla (left), Information and Communication Technology Board Chief Executive Officer Paul Kukubo (second from left), and World Bank managing director Caroline Anstey. PHOTO | PHOEBE OKALL | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By VICTOR KYALO
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By KORIR SING'OEI
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On June 30, 2016, Kenya submitted its Second National Action Plan within the framework of the Open Government Partnership. Formulated by a multi-agency steering committee, the plan outlines eight smart commitments that focus on legislative openness, beneficial ownership, access to information and records management, extractive sector transparency, budget transparency, open contracting, anti-corruption and climate resilience.

The commitments are some of the most ambitious and progressive in ensuring that the government and private sector adopt an open and transparent culture of doing business.

Inaugurated in 2011 by eight governments notably the United States, Brazil and South Africa, the partnership provides a transnational platform for catalysing actions by domestic reformers committed to making governments more open, accountable, and responsive to citizens.

The partnership has grown to a community of 70 countries, where government, civil society and private sector actively engage to develop and implement ambitious reforms that exploit information, communication and telecommunication.

Eligibility requires high-level endorsement of the partnership declaration by a participating country; delivery of an action plan that is developed with public consultation and commitment to an independent reporting on progress.

Kenya came on board in late 2011 with the development of the first Government Open Data Portal (Kenya Open Data Initiative) as part of nine African countries: South Africa, Cape Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Tanzania, Liberia, Ghana, Nigeria and Malawi.

Why are these commitments ground-breaking and why is the partnership significant?

The National Action Plan outlines clear time-bound milestones that need to be achieved in two years, inspiring new or catalysing ongoing processes of Kenya’s transformation agenda.

On climate resilience for example, the plan seeks to accelerate the implementation of policies that address the challenge of climate change. It commits to ensuring that a robust and transparent multi-stakeholder ecosystem is developed to support the implementation of The Climate Change Act, 2016.

TWO BLUEPRINTS

To enhance transparency in Kenya’s nascent extractive sector, the two blueprints acknowledges that the sector has “ …tendency of nondisclosure of prospecting information and revenues, seemingly accountable only to their shareholders.

Since natural resources need to benefit entire ecosystems and value chain, new partnerships are required between government and natural resources industry to ensure that taxpayers receive every shilling they are due from the extraction of our natural resources”.

The action plan recognises that Kenya has come a long way in its fight against corruption and has taken a number of measures to facilitate this objective.

The plan leverages on the London Summit on Anti-corruption in May, which enabled Kenya to join the community of nations in making specific commitments that safeguard against tax evasion and money laundering.

Kenya’s commitments at this summit identified partnership as one of its reporting mechanisms, especially on issues of beneficial ownership.

The plan therefore committed to the development of register of public contracts including the disclosure of ‘true beneficiaries’ of companies, both in Kenya and abroad.

The action plan further recognises existing best practices in contract transparency in support of public sector procurement accountability.

A commitment to open contracting standards therefore has been included in the action plan to ensure international standards on records and data are disclosed in open and machine readable formats.

The timely submission of the plan by Kenya demonstrates this administration’s deep-seated commitment towards the tenets of open government.

In order for these commitments to ultimately benefit the ordinary citizen, the plan’s implementation must become the business of all Kenyans.

Victor Kyalo is principal secretary, Ministry of Information and Communications Technology. Korir Sing’oei is legal advisor, Office of the Deputy President.

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