During the week of 8th -12th May, Open Government Partnership (OGP) reformers across the world commemorated the annual Open Government Week (OGW). The Open Government Week, an initiative encouraged by the OGP worldwide, usually has a focus to publicize OGP principles and practices to create a culture shared by public administrations and citizens, based on the values of transparency and integrity, civic participation and promotion of fundamental rights, as well as accountability of governments to citizens.
Kenya being one of the OGP member countries for a decade now, joined the global conversation and organized several engagements locally. Various cluster groups under the soon-to-be-concluded National Action Plan IV (NAP IV) met to reflect on their achievements in the implementation of NAP IV, set the agenda for NAP V and broaden the base for other actors.
According to civil society and government actors who shared the progress of their respective milestones, great efforts have been made in promoting openness and transparency in governance. There have been gains ranging from the establishment of an OGP caucus in Parliament, making accessible information on beneficial ownership, open contracting among others.
The OGP space creates a sweet opportunity for reformers in the government and civil society to bring their heads together and innovate towards reforms. The establishing OGP principle was based on inviting various stakeholders to co-create reforms. A significant pre-condition of joining OGP is that governments must establish a multi-stakeholder forum (MSF) and has regular meetings with the civil society. The nature of this partnership is such that trust can be built between the government and non-governmental actors but also to greatly encourage exchanges, cross-learning and joint innovation that fosters openness, transparency and accountability in service delivery.
Generally, the proximity of citizens to their government encourages engagement and shapes their perception of the government. It is worth-noting that the Constitution of Kenya encourages proactive public participation. This pegged with Article 1 of the Constitution on the sovereignty of the Kenyan people provides impetus to the OGP initiative for the country. Kenya makes a great candidate to showcase the transformative power of open governance but it can only do so with a lot of buy-in from the general public.
Majority of Kenyans are invested in seeing how the current regime is working towards breathing life to the values of transparency, openness and integrity. And in a case of pure coincidence, the Open Government Week came to an end during the same week that President William Ruto engaged journalists in a joint interview that was broadcasted across all media in the country. In the interview, the President was given an opportunity to appraise the country of the progress his government has made so far in actualizing the promises he made during the campaigns.
One of his government’s key promises was to promote accountability and openness in the management of public affairs, institutionalizing open governance throughout all state organs and agencies and publishing an annual state of openness report. It would, therefore, be key to monitor and track the government’s implementation of this even as the process of the co-creation of Kenya’s fifth National Action Plan kicks off in the coming weeks.
The desire for greater openness and more meaningful engagement of citizens in key decision-making processes in government structure cannot be overemphasized. To slay the corruption dragon that has perennially troubled the country, there has to be a lot of intentionality in opening up government processes, from both national and county levels. The need for OGP actors and reformers has never been greater seeing that the country is undergoing a truly troubling economic season that shouldn’t leave room for crooks to pillage further.
The Open Government Partnership in many ways is a space incentivizes governments and the civil society to think out of the box when thinking of better ways to make governments work for their people. As OGP actors in Kenya will be convening to strategize on the co-creation of the National Action Plan V, it will be critical for all of us to reflect on what has been achieved over the last 10 years and chart a clear path forward in our quest to make our institutions more open.
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