CPJ joins call for Tanzanian government to respect human rights

Originally published by Committee to Protect Journalists CPJ on May 10, 2018

CPJ, along with 64 other non-governmental organizations, today wrote to Tanzanian President John Magufuli to express concern about a worrying decline in the respect of human rights, including freedom of expression.

In recent months, Tanzania has implemented laws that undermine freedom of speech online, restrictions on peaceful protests, and closed media outlets, the letter said. The organizations urged Magufuli’s government to take proactive measures to protect these rights and to recognize publicly the essential role that a vibrant civil society and an independent media play in creating peaceful and equal societies.

The letter can be accessed via this link https://cpj.org/blog/2018/05/cpj-joins-call-for-tanzanian-government-to-respect.php?utm_source=T%2FAI+Newsletter+List&utm_campaign=61102700f3-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_05_15&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1a5ff28f1e-61102700f3-431571137

When More is More: Realizing the Open Government Partnership’s (OGP’s) Potential through More Ambitious Commitments

Article by Joe Foti

Originally published on Open Government Partnership

We often say that, “Less is more.” Yet there are times when we simply need more of a certain thing-when more is more. In the OGP, there are too few high-impact commitments. In the case of action plan ambition, more is more. Our new analysis of OGP action plans shows that more ambitious action plans lead to better results.

At the 2016 Paris Summit, OGP’s CEO, Sanjay Pradhan, challenged all OGP participants to carry out more ambitious commitments. The goal was simple: every country should have at least two open government commitments that were credibly complete and would make a real difference. In OGP lingo, we call these “starred commitments.”

Here we are, two years later, and we can see how far we are in moving towards that goal. OGP’s Independent Reporting Mechanism has finished reviewing a huge batch of 800 commitments – and the results are thought-provoking. (We dive deep into the questions, including a bit of sectoral analysis, in the longer paper here.)

In short, we are on our way, but there is still much work to be done. Take the following two facts:

  1. On a per country basis, we still haven’t reached the “two-per-country” level. We did grow from 0.8 commitments starred commitments per country to 1.2. Not bad, but also not where we want to be.
  2. Interestingly, completion is not the binding constraint. While completion rates more than doubled in the second year of action plans, the number of starred commitments did not.

The question is: if completion is a shrinking problem, why aren’t we getting more starred commitments?

Put simply, ambition seems to be the binding constraint. The design of action plans is, by far, the biggest problem with how much impact action plans have. Take a look at the figure below -the design gap is much bigger than the implementation gap. Four percent of commitments would have rated stars if they had been credibly implemented. Yet a huge 89% of commitments would never have been stars, because they were not relevant (11%), not specific (9%), and would not have had a major impact (69%).

Figure: The design gap is much larger than the ambition gap 

What does this mean for OGP?

The ambition gap means that we have to change and intensify the way we work. The assumption that we are going to get to bigger return on investment and bigger impacts by doubling down on implementation is probably wrong in most cases. Even if OGP countries implemented every potential star, we would not get to two stars per country. (And this is before we even begin taking into account the uneven distribution of “potential stars;” some countries have few while others have many.)

Implementation support can be costly, hard to scale, and is not a core function of OGP, which generally acts as a relationship broker and a marketplace of ideas. Rather, investment in strong action plans (of which we have a record number this year) is absolutely critical.

How we shrink the ambition gap is a difficult question. There are three commonly cited impediments to more ambitious commitments — politics, technical issues, and form.

Of the three, form is the most easily addressed. We need more concise, vibrant, and ambitious action plans. Some commitments may be high-impact, but are buried in a sea of minor deliverables and bureaucratic language. We need to put the citizen first in our language – what new capacities will they have as a result of a commitment?: How will governments change business as usual? Most action plans, as currently written, don’t tackle that issue.

Beyond ambition, the importance of strong peer exchange and support has never been clearer. We need more examples, like open contracting and beneficial ownership, where governmental, multilateral, and civil society partners have been able to use OGP as a lever to move a concept from a nebulous idea to an emerging norm.

In terms of politics, we need the whole OGP community, especially its Steering Committee members and founders, to lead by example. Each successfully implemented ambitious commitment can be copied and adapted by other countries. That’s where you, the members of the OGP community, come in.

Original article can be accessed on this link https://www.opengovpartnership.org/stories/when-more-more-realizing-open-government-partnership-s-ogp-s-potential-through-more?utm_source=T%2FAI+Newsletter+List&utm_campaign=e19a3fcb1e-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_05_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1a5ff28f1e-e19a3fcb1e-431571137 

ICA Africa-Ghana 2018: Conference Call

Call for Papers

ICAfrica 2nd Biennial, 2018

The Africa Regional Conference of the International Communication Association (ICA)

Theme: African Digital Cultures: Emerging Research, Practices and Innovations

Date:  7-9 November, 2018

Organisers: School of Information and Communication Studies, University of Ghana, Legon

Digital technology has become an inherent part of contemporary African life. Fueled by increasing internet penetration, changes have occurred to accommodate a more digital-driven lifestyle across various sectors of African societies. Compared with other parts of the world, Internet use in Africa is still relatively low, but digital technology is rapidly changing how people on the continent communicate with one another, produce and consume goods and services, enact citizenship, and construct narratives about themselves. New configurations in the communication, information and media landscape resulting from digitalization provoke new questions and challenge old assumptions about mediation practices for scholars. Traditional media such as radio, for example, may be still dominant in the information and communication ecology of Africa, but their practices are constantly being impacted and transformed by emerging digital cultures, especially amongst the youth.

The dynamic nature of technology-driven transformations in mediated communication in Africa calls for deeper insights into the cultures forming around the appropriation of digital technologies. In a world in which the face of communication is constantly evolving, we believe Africa can provide fresh thinking on how people adopt, appropriate and deploy digital technologies in various communicative contexts and the impact(s) that has on their lives.

The School of Information and Communication Studies (SICS) of the University of Ghana, in collaboration with the International Communication Association (ICA) is hosting the 2018 Regional ICA conference on the theme African Digital Cultures: Emerging research, practices and innovations. The conference seeks to bring together scholars from within and outside the continent to share their research and perspectives on the cultures forming around conceptualizations, production and consumption of the digital space in Africa.

Kindly visit the link below for further information

http://sics.ug.edu.gh/icaafrica-ghana

An Update on African Governance: the Africa Integrity Indicators 2018

Originally published by the Africa Integrity Indicators Team on the 4th of April 2018

The 2018 edition of the Africa Integrity Indicators data is available! We invite interested stakeholders to examine the data and share any feedback that can help increase the quality and usefulness of the data. Please get in touch with us by May 30th.

What is the Africa Integrity Indicators Project?

Every year since 2013, the Africa Integrity Indicators (AII) project assesses the state of governance and aspects of social development in all African countries. It produces qualitative data for 102 indicators across 13 categories from “Rule of law” and “Civil service integrity” to “Rights” and “Health and education.” The data can be found here.

How is our data unique?

The versatility of our data sets AII apart from other indices. It combines:

  • Scale and granularity: the AII data presents the big picture across the African continent while zooming in on specific questions in specific countries;
  • Timeliness and evolution: the AII data provides a snapshot of each country for any given year since 2013 while showcasing the trends in each country over time;
  • Comparability and context-specificity: the AII data is comparable across countries and over time with clear scoring conditions that determine what is measured and how it is assessed. At the same time, researchers provide specific comments on context and evidence that  highlight individual countries’ challenges and opportunities. Each of these comments is supported by multiple sources;
  • De jure and de facto: the AII data examines both the legal frameworks in force and the implementation of these frameworks in practice, thereby measuring the implementation gap.

Another strength of the AII data is the robustness of the quality control. To ensure that our data is credible, we follow a rigorous double-blind peer-review process that involves country and subject-matter experts.

How can the data be used?

The AII data is a stand-alone index published by Global Integrity. Measuring the implementation gap and providing snapshots of evidence for each question together with a score and the sources used by researchers to make their assessment, we endeavor to provide an objective and trustworthy assessment that can help reformers identify entry points and ways forward as regards reform they deem important and worth pursuing.

A number of questions also feed into the Ibrahim Index of African Governance and into the Worldwide Governance indicators (WGI) by the World Bank. Through the WGI, the data also provides the Millennium Challenge Corporation with information that informs its decisions about country eligibility for MCC compacts.

Three main features of our dataset make it a practical entry point for research, advocacy and action:

  • Accessibility: our methodology and sources are transparent and the data is open source;
  • Ease of use: for each indicator, scores make it quick and easy to identify patterns across countries and across time;
  • Actionability: for each indicator, qualitative, fact-based comments make it possible to understand the country-specific context and help to identify priorities for reforms.

How is our data relevant?

Like any organization that strives for impact, we believe that producing reliable data is only the first step toward enabling reformers to take action. It is our hope that the AII data will foster and inform discussions about governance reforms and social development across Africa, both at the regional and at country levels, within and outside government.

For several years, the dataset has served as a platform for dialogue with several governments that have reached out to us as part of their efforts to pursue institutional and policy reforms. In 2018, we look forward to resuming these discussions and starting new ones with both governments and civil society.

We also look forward to continuing the conversation on how governance data in general and the AII data in particular can be improved to be more useful to stakeholders and have a bigger impact.

Preliminary findings

To illustrate how the AII data can support discussions on governance and social development, we have selected a sample of preliminary findings for the period that covers September 2016 to September 2017.

Gender – bridging the gap

Both the legal and customary frameworks regarding women’s rights have remained largely unchanged, and mostly restrictive. In practice, however, the new AII data has captured renewed efforts by governments to improve the condition of women, especially in the labor market. For instance, in 2017 the government of Burkina Faso launched training and entrepreneurship programs for the benefits of female professionals while Chad conducted national awareness campaigns with the support of development partners.

In another positive development, the representation of women in national cabinets has significantly improved in 10 countries compared to the previous study period. The increase has been the largest in São Tomé and Principe and Somalia where, as of September 2017, one cabinet member in five was a woman, up by 10 percentage points.

Revolutions – the cases of Gambia and Tunisia

Political upheavals make headlines; but real change is often slow to materialize. The 2018 data takes stock of governance reforms in Gambia and Tunisia, respectively ten months and seven years after regime change.

Within one year of President Barrow taking office after the watershed election of December 2016, Gambia had achieved meaningful progress toward better governance. Change was, in practice, most remarkable in the independence of the judiciary, access to information, and freedom of association. The government also denounced as unconstitutional the restrictive sedition, criminal defamation, and false publication laws.

The situation in Tunisia has continued to improve across many governance dimensions. In practice, progress was most momentous in public management, where a culture of transparency permeated public procurement and natural resource exploitation. Tunisia, however, suffered consequential setbacks in other areas. One of the most worrisome concerns relate to existing and new NGOs, against which the government has started erecting administrative barriers. Despite permissive legislation, it has now become very difficult for NGOs to obtain the authorization to operate in the country.

Let’s start the conversation

Today’s release of provisional data marks the beginning of a 2-month feedback period during which we invite all interested parties to examine our data prior to final publication in June 2018. If you have comments on specific facts and narratives or if you have suggestions related to the accuracy of our research, please contact us at elsa.peraldi@globalintegrity.org.

If you have general comments and suggestions about how you find the data useful, how you use it, and how it can be improved, please send your feedback using this form or the aforementioned email address. You can also connect with us on Twitter (@GlobalIntegrity).

The original article can be access on the Global Integrity website https://www.globalintegrity.org/2018/04/an-update-on-african-governance-the-africa-integrity-indicators-2018/

Data for Development: What’s next? | Concepts, trends and recommendations

Originally posted by Transparency Initiative and Web Foundation

A major new study by GIZ, World Wide Web Foundation, and IDS suggests this tension between data access and privacy will be impossible to resolve and that privacy “may be used as an excuse to withhold public sector data that could be made open for citizens to advocate for better public services, hold governments accountable and tackle corruption in the public sector.” This is one of six trends the authors chart in big data, open data, citizen-generated data and real-time data.

The exponential growth of data provides powerful new ways for governments and companies to understand and respond to challenges and opportunities. This report, Data for Development: What’s next, investigates how organisations working in international development can leverage the growing quantity and variety of data to improve their investments and projects so that they better meet people’s needs.

Investigating the state of data for development and identifying emerging data trends, the study provides recommendations to support German development cooperation actors seeking to integrate data strategies and investments in their work. These insights can guide any organisation seeking to use data to enhance their development work.

The research considers four types of data: (1) big data, (2) open data, (3) citizen-generated data and (4) real-time data, and examines how they are currently being used in development-related policy-making and how they might lead to better development outcomes.

The full report can be accessed on the Web Foundation website on this link  https://webfoundation.org/research/data-for-development-whats-next-concepts-trends-and-recommendations/

Alternatively, you can access the report on this site’s resource library under literature, social accountability; conceptual.

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA: FAILURE TO INSTITUTIONALIZE PAST GAINS WEAKENS TRANSPARENCY

Originally published by BY DANIEL HILLER, JASON LAKIN, PH.D., AND JOEL FRIEDMAN INTERNATIONAL BUDGET PARTNERSHIP— MAR 08, 2018

The Open Budget Survey (OBS) 2017 records the first halt in progress on global budget transparency since the survey was launched in 2006. Unlike the small but steady increases seen in past rounds, the global average score on the Open Budget Index (OBI) — the part of the survey that measures budget transparency — actually decreased from 45 to 43 between 2015 and 2017 among the 102 countries included in both rounds.

The modest decline in the global average OBI score is primarily due to changes in Sub-Saharan Africa, where the regional average score fell by 11 points between 2015 and 2017. This decline represents a significant reversal for a region that had been a major driver of the increase in the global average score the previous round. Consider these facts:

  • Between 2012 and 2015, of the 26 Sub-Saharan African countries included in both rounds, 12 increased their scores by more than five points, and only two countries saw their OBI scores decline by more than five points.
  • In contrast, between 2015 and 2017, of the 27 Sub-Saharan African countries surveyed in both rounds, only one country (Senegal) increased its OBI score by more than five points, while the scores of 15 countries in the region declined by more than five points.The decline in this round of the survey largely results from Sub-Saharan African countries publishing 27 fewer documents in 2017 than in 2015, a 21 percent drop.  This included six fewer Executive’s Budget Proposals, a document that receives a significant weight in the OBI as it is the core document that presents and explains a government’s revenue and spending policies and its outlook for the economy. Failure to publish this key document typically results in a much lower country score.

    This notable decline in the number of published budget documents in Sub-Saharan Africa can be partially attributed to an update in how IBP measures “public availability” — i.e., whether citizens have access to the comprehensive and timely information they need to participate in budget decision making and monitoring. For the OBS 2017, only those documents published on a government website in a timely manner are considered to be publicly available. Documents that are posted on the internet are significantly more accessible to the public than hard-copy documents that few may be able to obtain. Internet penetration has expanded rapidly, and civil society organizations can easily print online documents to share with others who do not have internet access. Furthermore, any document that is produced as a hard copy can now easily be posted to a website at minimal cost.

    This update, however, does not account for the entire decline. Absent this change, there still would have been 10 fewer documents published in 2017 than in 2015, including four Executive’s Budget Proposals. IBP undertook various analyses to approximate the impact of this update in the OBS definition of public availability on OBI 2017 scores (see Annex B of the Open Budget Survey 2017). We concluded that even under very generous assumptions, the average score for the region would have fallen, albeit by a smaller amount.

    CAUSES OF THE DECLINE

    IBP has not yet conducted in-depth analyses to determine the factors driving this sharp drop in the average OBI score for the region. But a superficial review reveals that changes in OBI scores in Sub-Saharan Africa are not strongly correlated with changes in indices measuring democracy, income, oil dependence, or human development. These preliminary findings require further investigation.

    The OBS 2017 results suggest that whatever factors contributed to improvements in transparency in the region between 2012 and 2015 were insufficient in maintaining these gains in 2017. Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa that increased their OBI score by more than five points between 2012 and 2015 declined by more on average between 2015 and 2017 than the countries that were not substantial improvers between 2012 and 2015.

    While this decline in transparency could be reversed in the next round of the OBS, the Sub-Saharan African case highlights the importance of preserving gains over time. Governments should prioritize institutionalizing transparency practices through laws and regulations. Concurrently, civil society should remain vigilant in monitoring their governments to ensure they do not waver in commitments to more transparent and accountable budget systems, and by continuing to advocate for transparency and participation in budgeting and engaging in budget debates.

    The original article can be accessed on https://www.internationalbudget.org/2018/03/sub-saharan-africa-failure-to-institutionalize-gains-weakens-transparency/

New South African President Cyril Ramaphosa pledges to ‘turn tide’ on corruption

Originally published on Independent by Christopher TorchiaNqobile Ntshangase

‘We should put behind us the era of diminishing trust in public institutions and weakened confidence in our country’s public leaders,’ says Mr Ramaphosa

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa delivered a message of optimism and renewal on Friday in his first state of the nation address, saying it’s time for South Africans to put discord behind them and that the country will “turn the tide” on corruption in state institutions this year.

Mr Ramaphosa’s address capped a dramatic week in which he was elected by ruling party lawmakers following the resignation of predecessor Jacob Zuma, whose tenure was marked by corruption scandals. Mr Zuma was supposed to give the speech last week, but it was postponed because of the leadership crisis that fuelled uncertainty and anxiety in the country of 57 million people.

“We should put behind us the era of diminishing trust in public institutions and weakened confidence in our country’s public leaders,” said Mr Ramaphosa, who was Mr Zuma’s deputy before becoming South Africa’s fifth president since the end of white minority rule in 1994.

“A new dawn is upon us,” he said in a speech in parliament that drew applause but was criticised by the opposition as short on meaningful solutions.

“Cyril Ramaphosa’s plan for South Africa is too much of a continuation of the Zuma era,” said Mmusi Maimane, leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance. “There is no major policy reform, only some tinkering with the current policies that have not brought change to the lives of our people. There were too many conferences and summits announced, and not enough clear plans for fixing the problems.”

Mr Ramaphosa, 65, faces the hard task of rooting out corruption that flourished in both state enterprises and the private sector under Mr Zuma, implicating figures in the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party that he now leads. In addition, he must tackle sluggish economic growth, high unemployment and economic inequality that are among South Africa’s most deep-rooted problems.

The new president said his administration would concentrate on creating jobs and attracting investment, while also possibly downsizing bloated government departments and restructuring state-owned enterprises that are inefficient and prone to corruption.

“This is the year in which we will turn the tide on corruption in our public institutions,” Mr Ramaphosa said. “The criminal justice institutions have been taking initiatives that will enable us to deal effectively with corruption.”

South African authorities want to arrest a key member of the Gupta business family accused of using its links Mr Zuma to influence Cabinet ministers and secure state contracts. The suspect, Ajay Gupta, is considered a fugitive after failing to turn himself in, according to police. Eight people, including a member of the Gupta family, have already been arrested as part of an investigation into alleged corruption involving the Guptas, who deny any wrongdoing.

The family is a flashpoint for national anger over “state capture,” the term used by South Africans to describe an allegedly wide-ranging effort to loot state enterprises under Mr Zuma. Mr Ramaphosa said he supports the work of a judicial commission that is about to investigate the phenomenon, but one opposition leader said the new president would have to turn on his own political party if he is serious about fighting graft.

“He must arrest his own colleagues because they are corrupt,” Julius Malema, head of the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters, told eNCA media.

A figure under scrutiny over his relationship with the Guptas is Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba, who is scheduled to unveil the South African budget in parliament next week. Opposition parties say Mr Ramaphosa would be sending the wrong message if he allows Mr Gigaba to deliver the budget speech, though the new president has yet to announce any Cabinet reshuffle plans.

 Mr Ramaphosa was a lead negotiator in the transition from apartheid to democracy and became one of South Africa’s most prominent businessmen. He now leads a government anxious to shed months of political limbo and public frustration, and the strengthening of the South African currency, the rand, against the dollar is an indicator of optimism over Mr Ramaphosa’s ascent.

However, the new leader indicated he is aware there are no easy fixes to South Africa’s challenges, which date from the era of apartheid a generation ago.

“We remain a highly unequal society in which poverty and prosperity are still defined by race as well as gender,” he said.

The original article can be found on this link http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/south-africa-president-cyril-ramaphosa-speech-corruption-turn-tide-a8214911.html 

President, please plan properly for higher education

By SIYABULELA FOBOSI

The Public Service Accountability Monitor highlights challenges in higher education ahead of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation address on Friday 16 February

On 16 February 2018, the newly elected President of the Republic of South Africa will deliver the 2018 State of the Nation Address (SONA). The country continues to face challenges with ensuring access to a fee-free higher education.[1]. When the President delivers SONA on Friday, the Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM) would like to highlight the following priorities that he will address related to higher education in South Africa.

Access to higher education, just like all social services, in South Africa is determined by funding. It is critical to note that “where government allocation is failing in providing more funds. Historically white universities have private funds/income and high university fees to assist them.”[2]

The majority of students enrolled at the so-called “historically Black universities are the poor African and Coloured from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds. There is an increasing need for capital to access higher education in the country.

Over the years, fees in higher education have grown at a rate that is more than inflation rates. This condition has made access to education unaffordable for a majority of the population across the country.

Higher education in South Africa continues to face financial constraints. The elected President will need to outline the implementation plans of the free Higher education, as announced in December 2017 by the former President Jacob Zuma that government would subsidize free higher education for poor and working class students.[3]

At the time of tabling the 2017/18 Medium Term Budget Policy Statement, the Minister of Finance, Mr Malusi Gigaba noted that gross national debt is projected to reach 61% of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2022, with debt-service costs approaching 15% of main budget revenue by 2020/21. The MTBPS was delivered in a context where there is growing inequality levels, and the unemployment rate sitting at 27.7% – the highest figure since September 2003.[4]

If the current trends continue, it is unlikely that South Africa will realise free tertiary education in the near future. The current economic crisis undermines the possibility for free tertiary education.

What is important to critically consider in the discussion for free higher education costs is the meaning of ‘free’. The call for fee-free higher education necessitates the need to engage with the questions of equity, equality, access and transformation.  Generally, it is recognised that higher education cannot be free, as someone through some means must inevitably cover the cost of education. South Africa is, therefore, not faced with a policy choice of whether higher education can be free or not but rather, a question of “who pays, when do they pay and how much of the share of the costs can they pay”.[5]

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), established in 1999 through an Act of Parliament, Act No 56 of 1999, continues to provide loans to eligible students at public higher education institutions.

Since its establishment, the NSFAS has become recognised as the only student financial aid scheme despite the funding challenges it continues to face. According to the Submission to the Commission of Inquiry in June 2016 by the NSFAS on Free-Higher Education, NSFAS has provided access to more than 1.5 million students from poor and working class families.[1]

The future of most students continue to be affected by lack of funding to further studies, even though the NSFAS is making an attempt to bridge the gap between many young people who come from poor backgrounds and the unaffordable cost of higher education in South Africa.

The effects of poverty on young people who aspire to access higher education further compound the complex barriers to equal access that NSFAS aims to address. In many instances, student debtors are often unable to repay the loan owing to the lack of opportunities to secure formal employment.

Despite the sharp increases in NSFAS allocations for student funding (R510 million in 2000, R3.6 billion in 2010 and R9 billion in 2014), the demand for higher education funding continues to increase ahead of the allocations.

In order to address the inequalities of access to Higher Education, the PSAM makes the following recommendations:

  • There is a need to improve targeting of public spending to disadvantaged groups in order to achieve more equitable education outcomes.
  • There should be bursary funding, and not just loans, for students in order to cover for their tuition fees, accommodation, books and other living expenses.
  • The financial support instruments will need to be broader to accommodate for families whose household income cannot contribute to the cost of tuition.
  • Students should never be excluded for financial reasons; promoting a system of meritocracy.
  • Government should prioritise poor people in the realisation of free higher education in South Africa.

The PSAM therefore urges  the elected President to provide clear, adequately-resourced implementation plans for the fee-free higher education.

The article can also be accessed at http://www.grocotts.co.za/2018/02/15/president-please-plan-properly-for-higher-education/ . The author Siyabulela Fobosi can be reach at PSAM on S.Fobosi@ru.ac.za.

Distract, Divide, Detach: Using Transparency and Accountability to Justify Regulation of CSOs

Originally Published by TA learning and GPSA

By Hans Gutbrod
In its latest report, TAI takes a deep dive on how governments weaponize transparency to further close down civic space and puts forward recommendations on how the transparency community can respond.

The full report can be found on the TAI website, to access it follow the link http://www.transparency-initiative.org/uncategorized/1996/distract-divide-detach-using-transparency-accountability-justify-regulation-csos/

Or you can access it on our literature page under citizen engagement http://copsam.com/literature/

CITIZENS’ KNOWLEDGE AND PERSPECTIVES ON SOCIAL ACCOUNTABILITY INFORMATION ACCESS AND DISTRIBUTION IN GRAHAMSTOWN, A SMALL SOUTH AFRICAN TOWN

Grahamstown, with an estimated population of 82 060, is well known for being the home of Rhodes University and the famous National Arts Festival (Stats SA, 2016). Regardless, however, of the many successes the town enjoys with the Arts Festival and education institutions, the municipality has been struggling with serious administrative challenges. Makana Municipality was placed under administration[1] in 2015, following their inability to pay staff salaries, due to huge debts accrued (Maclennan, 2017). The 9 months intervention did not yield the expected outcomes, however. The town still suffers, amongst other issues, from debt, high rates of unemployment, and poor service delivery, particularly water and infrastructure. Water outages are consistent and almost every road in town has potholes due to lack of maintenance and mismanagement of the public resources (Maclennan, 2017). The local civil society organisations collective calling itself the Makana Unity League has started calling for administration again, however, others are concerned that getting outside intervention is futile, as proven by the previous experience (Penxa, 2017).

Grahamstown citizens have become accustomed to protests and marches, heading to the municipal offices to make their concerns known and demand answers for the poor state of the municipality. Research studies show that it is to the best interests of society to ensure that duty bearers manage public resources in an efficient, transparent, and socially accountable manner, as demonstrated in the protests and advocacy campaigns. In order to do this, the citizens need to understand how the various government processes work. Therefore, social accountability pertains to the citizens’ ability to hold the government accountable for its actions, through demanding explanations and justifications for their actions. Furthermore, the willingness and ability of the government to provide those justifications and explanations to civil society and take corrective measures (Halloran, 2015). The right to social accountability, therefore, promotes citizen’s engagement and transparency regarding the use and management of public resources (Ackerman, 2005).

In order to efficiently exercise their right to social accountability, citizens need to be informed about the operations of the public resources management system and the various channels to follow when interrogating the use of public resources. It was this reason that drove the Unemployed People’s Movement (UPM), a local social movement and the Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM), a university-affiliated CSO, to want to understand accessibility of the social accountability information in Grahamstown. Social accountability information refers to information that can be used by citizens to monitor and demand justifications for the use and management of public resources.

The Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM) is a university-based organization involved in social accountability monitoring. The Unemployed People’s Movement (UPM) is a community based social movement that assists the public deal with various issues in Grahamstown. The UPM and PSAM, working in the social accountability sector formed a partnership to conduct a research study to understand the accessibility of information to the Grahamstown community.

Due to limited resources and timeframes, only 30 people (15 females and 15 males) between the ages 18 and 69 years old were interviewed. The informants were from Joza, Vukani, Hlalani, Ethembeni, and Fingo, Grahamstown West and Central. Informants indicated that they had sufficient knowledge regarding the roles or the various public servants, however they needed information related the various government process that affect them as the public. Informants identified the social accountability related information they would like to receive as:

  • All sorts of information that concerned them as community members and civil society.
  • Basic rights and grants information.
  • Municipalities expenditure records and the mismanagement of resources where applicable.
  • The Integrated Development Plans (IDP), their budget allocation and how they are spent, as well as having access to the [municipal] 5-year plans and progress reports.
  • How the government advertises their posts and recruits officials?
  • Tenders and the criteria to accessing them.
  • Who gets the services and the various steps an individual needs to take to access adequate services and employment?
  • Water and sanitation issues, especially when they affect the community, like water shortages, etc. and be regularly informed about municipality affairs.
  • Who to approach or where to report when your rights are being violated?
  • Would like transparency concerning the management of resources.
  • What resources are there that the municipality can provide for the people?
  • How government officials ought to behave because I see that they are all corrupt starting from parliament to local and provincial, to me they are the same?

The informants wanted the resource management process to be transparent enough to allow the community to monitor and assess the use of funds and ensure that proper regulations were followed when spending. There seemed to be a clear understanding that the resources the government was working with were limited. Some members wanted to understand:

  • The process of editing [financial management within the municipality] and the nature of services being delivered.
  • The basis under which the needs [of the citizens] are identified and the strategies that inform service delivery.
  • What happens when the resources are not being managed adequately?

There were informants who explained that they did not want to depend on the government, but needed the government to assist them to start their own enterprise, as stated in the sentence below that they would like to know:

“Where we can go to get resources to start our own business and what help can we get from the government to have those businesses?”

Some informants stated that they have been kept in the dark by their government officials regarding the state of affairs in their local regions, and that it was the responsibility of the public themselves to ensure that the government officials change their behavior and become more engaging and transparent. They emphasized the fact that every citizen should benefit from the resources of the country, especially since the new democratic regime prides itself on being for the people.

With regard to the accessibility of social accountability related information, the study shows that out of the thirty informants interviewed eighteen of them receive social accountability information via word of mouth, ten of them receive it in meetings and nine of the receive it via television and newspapers. Leaflets, internet and radio were rated the lowest. With regard to the preferred medium of communication as a means of circulating and distributing social accountability information, radio was rated the highest. Twenty informants indicated that they would have preferred to receive their news via radio, sixteen preferred newspapers and meetings. The internet or online services came after at fifteen, as well as word of mouth. Leaflets were rated the lowest, as it appeared that only ten people wanted to receive their information via leaflets. The informants further indicated a need for engagement platforms, to learn to interact with the various process and the circulating information to strengthen their social accountability initiatives.

The major study findings imply that:

FINDINGS

  1. Most of the informants do not have access to adequate information to inform the social accountability initiatives they engage in, which often creates problems that hinder their progress in advocating for their needs. Their lack of knowledge regarding the roles of the government officials, and the connection between policies and public services indicated that the information they receive, or the way they receive the information, is not adequate to empower them to understand the public resources system and be involved in decision-making.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  • It is necessary to create a bridge of information flow between the various stakeholders of the social accountability sector. The availability of an organogram of the government officials and qualified personnel in every public institution will assist the public to direct their concerns to the right people.
  • Social accountability practitioners should consider creating more knowledge sharing platforms where they can engage the general public. The majority of people do not have access to information and knowledge sharing platforms that will empower them to be active citizens.

FINDINGS

  1. The majority of informants indicated that they are able to receive information via word of mouth, meetings, television, radio and other means. However, the findings also show that often times information recipients are not equipped to translate the information they receive to inform their interventions in a systematic manner.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Social accountability practitioners and knowledge distributors should consider a multiple media approach when distributing information. No one method is able to reach everyone.
  • Because the majority of study participants seem to prefer to be receivers of news and not become makers of news, it is important for knowledge distributors to understand their target’s information needs and expectations when disseminating information.
  • Capacity building for grassroots civil actors might assist them to interpret the information in a productive manner and increase their awareness of the issues and the need to get involved. The knowledge gained might also assist them to translate the information to improve their interventions.

FINDINGS

  1. The availability of knowledge sharing platforms in the social accountability sector is undeniable, however, their value and impact is often influenced by other social dynamics that affect the sharing of knowledge and information. Dynamics that include overflow of information, and restricted knowledge sharing platforms amongst others.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Information distributors need to be cognizant of the characteristics of their target audience when designing knowledge sharing platforms. Paying careful attention to economic, resource and time constraints, accessibility to informal and formal meeting spaces, and difference in national or community culture amongst other things.
  • It might be helpful to create platforms where diverse groups or individuals can congregate to share their expertise and/or experiences. This will ensure that information does not remain restricted to certain groups or individuals.
  • To merely be informed without action is not enough. Therefore, it is important for both the government and the civil society sector to establish mutually beneficial relationships to share skills and expertise, and build solidarity.
  • Civil society practitioners need to consider establishing systems that will allow for a consistent flow of information between government officials and the citizens, especially at the grassroots level, where people are most affected by lack of service delivery. This will ensure that citizens take ownership of the state of affairs and work in collaboration with the government to improve conditions.

The full report is available on http://copsam.com/literature/ under social accountability case studies

Produced By Lindelwa Nxele PSAM AIP Officer- February 2018

[1] Municipalities are placed  under Section 139 1(b) provincial administration if they have been deemed unable to fulfil their administrative duties to receive a clean audit for a number of consecutive years. An administrator is deployed to a municipality to assess and clean their records to ensure future progressive operations. For more information on Makana under administration, visit, http://www.dispatchlive.co.za/news/2014/10/02/tough-job-to-fix-the-chaos-in-makana/