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Letters

Role of open governance in public institutions

Kisumu County Assembly
Kisumu County Assembly. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Open governance is a governance culture that promotes the principles of integrity, transparency, stakeholder participation, and accountability in support of democracy and inclusive growth via crowdsourcing.

It is a prerequisite for an open state in which all levels of government, i.e., Judiciary, Executive and Legislature exploit the synergies, share the good practices and lessons learned among themselves and with the stakeholders to promote integrity, transparency, stakeholder participation and accountability in support of inclusive growth and democracy.

Open governance platform was launched on September 20, 2011, at the UN General Assembly. Eight countries, namely Mexico, Norway. Indonesia, Brazil, the UK, Philippines, South Africa, and the US, took the lead and endorsed an open governance declaration along with the action plans in collaboration with the civil societies.

Kenya launched an open data platform in July 2011 and followed up by signing its commitment to open governance partnership on December the same year.

There are prerequisite conditions for a country or a region to join the open government platform. The first step is meeting the OGP eligibility criteria involves a state demonstrating a minimum commitment level to open governance principles in four key areas namely access to information, fiscal transparency, asset disclosures, and civic engagement. The eligibility is measured by the objective governance indicators that make use of public data sources. Countries are required to attain an eligibility score of 75 percent to participate in OGP.

The next step involves a nation signaling its intent to participate by writing a formal letter to OGP co-chair nations followed by identification of a lead agency or organisation that will spearhead the process.

The last process involves the development of an OGP national action plan via consultation with civil societies, the academia, ordinary citizens and other key stakeholders.

In a time of mistrust of the government and public institutions, rising societal expectations calls for a renewal of engagement between the government and its citizens. Governments are supposed to design and implement open government strategies and initiatives that put citizens at the heart of policy making to enhance accountability and promote diversity, inclusivity, and equity.

However, that has not been the case in Africa and Kenya in particular hence the need for a paradigm shift to allow open governance.

Nations are increasingly acknowledging the role of open governance as a catalyst for good governance, democracy, and inclusive growth. Open governance principles such as integrity, transparency, accountability and stakeholders’ participation are progressively changing the relationship between public officials and citizens in many countries.

An open government focuses on providing practical approaches to enhancing democratic principles of good governance. As a result, this promotes transparency, participation, and accountability as its core objectives.

Open governance rests on the philosophy that genuine democracy is a participatory process and that people must have access to the right information if they are to play a pivotal role in the governance process.

Open governance platforms (OGP) provide the possibility of access to information and participation in decision making as well as monitoring and scrutinizing all government actions. Many stakeholders run the gamut from the government, civil societies, the private sector, the media, academia, and ordinary citizens.

Open governance partnerships is a process in which government or its close entities agree with the respective watchdogs to avail information to the public for monitoring and evaluation. In addition to the government and the oversight bodies such as the civil societies and the media draft agreements and commitments as part of the reforms to enhance accountability.

Open data platforms such as e-government services (ecitizen in Kenya) leverage the use of information and communications technology (ICT) for better service delivery and exchange of information between the government and citizens. In addition to such platforms can be employed to disseminate open government data (OGD).

Josphat Kagiri Machagua, economist

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