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Zim needs open govt reforms

PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration has been challenged to implement open government reforms as a way of combating corruption and enhancing transparency and accountability in the country.

Open government is defined as a culture of governance based on innovative, sustainable policies and practices inspired by the principles of transparency, accountability, and participation that fosters democracy and inclusive growth.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa

Several countries such as Nigeria, Ukraine, Paraguay and Brazil are becoming global champions in implementing reforms that enhance inclusivity and participatory democracy.

A recent report by New Thinking Development in partnership with Zimbabwe Institute revealed that there is clear evidence that implementing open government reforms, saves government money, builds trust with citizens and business as well as improving service delivery.

“An open government approach improves the quality of democratic life for citizens by ensuring government meets their basic needs,” read part of the document.

“The impact and benefits of this model include building trust between government, citizens and business, effective and efficient public service delivery, and inclusive socio-economic development among other things”

This comes as democracy and citizens’ participation have been stifled in the southern African country due to high levels of centralization in government, political and administrative circles in the last 30 years.

The new publication called “Towards an Open and Accountable Government: Context and way forward for Zimbabwe” revealed that the exclusion of citizens from participating in their governance has resulted in a rise in unbridled corruption in the country.  While the 2013 Constitution and the government’s New Dispensation Strategy Document highlight the principle of participatory democracy as fundamental, implementation is yet to be realized. The country continues to face numerous governance and socio-economic challenges such as, fuel shortages, high inflation and poor delivery of social services,” the report said.

The report called for government to strengthen and empower institutions to become impartial gate-keepers of participatory democracy and protect citizen’s right to access to information.

“It is important for Zimbabwe to establish a decentralization governance architecture that is inclusive and allows for equal participation of citizens. The country should also establish a multi-stakeholder platform to drives governance reforms, which should include government, civil society, trade unions, parliament and private sector”.

The report also noted that government officials need to demonstrate high level political will-power to address grand and petty corruption.

“Parliament, media and citizens all need to be empowered to monitor, investigate corruption and for the judiciary to prosecute perpetrators especially politically exposed persons,” the report said.

In 2014, the Government of Paraguay, using digital technology, allowed public access to detailed information about all tenders and contracts awarded by national and municipal government institutions dating back to 2010.

This allowed media and citizen monitoring that saw government making billions of dollars in savings.

In Brazil municipalities that voluntarily adopted participatory budgeting programs collect 39 percent more locally generated taxes – property, sales and fees – than similar municipalities without these programmes. This corresponds to over three percent of municipalities’ budgets and is equivalent to 40 percent of their capital investment spending.

Buoyed by benefits of open government, the government of Kaduna State in Nigeria carried out an audit that identified corruption in the building of health care centers that only existed on paper. Using a mobile app, citizens became the ‘eyes and ears’ of government, giving feedback directly to the governor’s office and the State Legislature on all infrastructural projects in the area. This has seen record completion of 500 schools and 200 hospitals, thus improving maternal health and safety in the state.