By Reuben Sei Waylaun
The Secretariat of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) has taken the awareness campaign to the National Legislature.
The two-day Legislative Engagement is under the theme: “Advancing Transparency, Social, Political and Financial Accountability in the Governance Process” with funding from the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA).
The OGP is a voluntary international initiative that aims to secure transformative commitments from government to their citizens, to promote openness and transparency in government, enhance citizens’ participation, fight corruption, and harness new technology to strengthen governance.
Liberia formally joined the OGP on September 7, 2011 with the aim of deepening and guaranteeing the implementation and improvement of key reforms with the Ministry of Information and Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT) becoming the host entity.
Giving the overview of the OGP Wednesday July 3, 2019 at the Conference Room of the Liberian Senate, the Chairman of the Steering Committee of the OGP, Deputy Information Minister for Administration, Attorney Daniel C. Gayedyu recounted Liberia’s achievements since it joined the OGP.
Minister Gayedyu named the development of the country’s action plan in 2013, the development of action plans from 2013 to 2019, the signing of the Table Mountain Declaration or the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act in 2010, the enactment of the Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC) Act in 2009, establishment of the Open Budget Initiative and the enactment of the Liberia Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (LEITI) Act respectively.
The Deputy MICAT boss also said they have completely delivered on the commitment to implement feedback mechanism to build accountability in the Liberia National Police; making information around land ownership and use more open and useful to the public immediately upon the passage of the Land Reform Act into law among others.
During the awareness campaign at the National Legislature, the Head of the Secretariat of the OGP, G. Ralph Jimmeh, Jr., reminded members of the Legislature of the legislative commitments in the National Action Plans from October 2017 to October 2019.
Mr. Jimmeh reminded the lawmakers of the commitments as “Tracking status of bills in the House of Representatives and Senate through ongoing monitoring, Provide analysis on the progress of bills, the sponsor of each bill and who has voted for each bill, Publish ongoing results and analysis in quarterly reports and online through a searchable database and work with relevant groups inside and outside government through roundtables to push for the passage of critical bills like the whistblower bill, the witness protection bill and the Land Reform Bill when needed.”
He however said there are challenges confronting the OGP in Liberia. Mr. Jimmeh, Jr., named poor awareness nationally and sub-nationally, insufficient government bide-in, low budgetary support, lack of political will and lack of ownership.
The OGP Head of Secretariat lamented that between 2013 and 2015, country’s performance report of the OGP National Action Plan (NAP) listed Liberia among the poorest performing countries amongst OGP acceded countries.
He further said 2015 to 2017 report ranked Liberia as limited placing the country amongst countries that needed serious attention. The OGP National Action Plan has four thematic areas. They are Transparency, citizens’ participation, accountability and integrity and technology and innovation respectively. He said the country’s rating attracts donors’ attention.
During the awareness at the National Legislature, some of the key staffers in the offices of lawmakers who represented their bosses admitted that it was their first time getting the in-depth understanding of the OGP, but immediately pledged their unflinching supports to the process after been informed of the OGP and its benefits to the country.
Speaking at the occasion, the Chairman of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Good Governance, Nimba County electoral district eight Representative, Larry P. Younquoi said OGP is just the opposite of bad governance, saying to avoid bad governance, it is good to support the OGP Secretariat in achieving its objectives.
Representative Younquoi pledged the unflinching supports of his committee in making the OGP Secretariat achieves its goals.
Also speaking, House Speaker Bhofal Chambers reminded officials of government and citizens of the country that real government should be public. Speaker Chambers said as legislature, they intent to be transparent.
He said openness is good, but it is not a day journey; saying “we will get there. We will achieve if we work together.”