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Malawi End-of-Term Report 2016-2018

Researcher: Paul L Kwengwere, Independent Researcher

Malawi’s first action plan included measures to implement freedom of information and increase extractives’ revenue transparency. While the government passed the Access to Information Bill during the action plan period, the Bill has lacked practical implementation. Moving forward, Malawi could improve the design of future commitments by including clearer indicators for implementation and making them more directly relevant to OGP values.

Table 1: At a Glance
Mid-term End of term
Number of Commitments 5
Level of Completion
Completed 2 2
Substantial 0 0
Limited 1 1
Not Started 2 2
Number of Commitments with…
Clear Relevance to OGP Values 3 3
Transformative Potential Impact 0 0
Substantial or Complete Implementation 2 2
All Three (✪) 0 0
Did It Open government?
Major 0
Outstanding 0
Moving Forward
Number of Commitments Carried Over to Next Action Plan N/A

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is a voluntary international initiative that aims to secure commitments from governments to their citizenry to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. The Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) carries out a review of the activities of each OGP-participating country.

This report summarizes the results of the period from September 2016 to August 2018. It builds on the IRM midterm progress report on the country’s OGP performance after one year of the plan’s implementation.

Initially, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation was the lead institution for Malawi’s participation in OGP. This responsibility was moved to the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC), under the leadership of the Principal Secretary for Good Governance, who reports directly to the OPC’s Chief Secretary.

The Ministry of Finance does not allocate a dedicated budget to OGP in the main budget lines presented to Parliament. However, the Office of the President and Cabinet has the authority to allocate funds for activities based on the necessary votes and use the authority of the Chief Secretary to implement these activities even when individual ministries are facing budget cuts from the Treasury.

Overall, two out of the five commitments were not directly relevant to OGP values, as they focused on the funding of government institutions. The two that were completed, namely freedom of information and the extractive industry transparency initiative, have not resulted in the government opening up.

As the period ended, the government had not carried out the self-assessment. At the time of writing this report Malawi had not presented a new action plan for its second cycle.

Consultation with Civil Society during Implementation

Countries participating in OGP follow a process for consultation during development and implementation of their action plan.

Although the government established the National OGP Steering Committee, consisting of government, civil society, and private sector representatives to monitor the action plan’s implementation, it did not meet during the implementation period. It should be noted that some civil society organisations (CSOs) have been independently highly involved in the progress made towards implementing some of the action plan’s commitments, particularly the passage of the Access to Information (ATI) Bill and Malawi’s participation in the Extractive Industries Transparency Industry Standard (through their role in the EITI multi-stakeholder group).

According to the government point of contact (PoC), a lack of resources was cited as the main reason for failure to meet. Interview with the Malawi Government Point of Contact, Mr Wezi Kayira.  The PoC indicated to the IRM researcher that one-on-one meetings took place with some CSOs working on areas relevant to the action plan commitments, including the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)’s Malawi chapter meeting with the Ministry of Information and the Malawi Human Rights Commission on the ATI Bill, and the Chairperson of Natural Resources Justice Network meeting with the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining on issues related to EITI. Interviews with MISA Chairperson, Ms Teresa Ndanga; and Natural Resources Justice Network, Mr Moses Mkandawire.  While consulted CSOs expressed appreciation to the government for informing them on Malawi’s progress in these thematic areas, the one-on-one meetings were informal and were not designed to serve as a substitute for the multi-stakeholder consultations of the National OGP Steering Committee. Because of the informal nature of these meetings, civil society as a whole could not provide input on implementation progress for the specific commitments in the action plan.

Table 2: Consultation during Implementation

Regular Multi-stakeholder Forum Midterm End of Term
1. Did a forum exist? Yes Yes
2. Did it meet regularly? No No

Table 3: Level of Public Influence during Implementation

The IRM has adapted the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) “Spectrum of Participation” to apply to OGP. For more information on the IAP2 Spectrum, see http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.iap2.org/resource/resmgr/foundations_course/IAP2_P2_Spectrum_FINAL.pdf  This spectrum shows the potential level of public influence on the contents of the action plan. In the spirit of OGP, most countries should aspire for “collaborative.”

Level of Public Influence during Implementation of Action Plan Midterm End of Term
Empower The government handed decision-making power to members of the public.    
Collaborate There was iterative dialogue AND the public helped set the agenda.    
Involve The government gave feedback on how public inputs were considered.    
Consult The public could give inputs.    
Inform The government provided the public with information on the action plan.    
No Consultation No consultation

About the Assessment

The indicators and method used in the IRM research can be found in the IRM Procedures Manual. IRM Procedures Manual, http://www.opengovpartnership.org/about/about-irm.  One measure, the “starred commitment” (✪), deserves further explanation due to its particular interest to readers and usefulness for encouraging a race to the top among OGP-participating countries. Starred commitments are considered exemplary OGP commitments. To receive a star, a commitment must meet several criteria:

  • Starred commitments will have “medium” or “high” specificity. A commitment must lay out clearly defined activities and steps to make a judgment about its potential impact.
  • The commitment’s language should make clear its relevance to opening government. Specifically, it must relate to at least one of the OGP values of Access to Information, Civic Participation, or Public Accountability.
  • The commitment would have a “transformative” potential impact if completely implemented. The International Experts Panel changed this criterion in 2015. For more information, visit http://www.opengovpartnership.org/node/5919.
  • The government must make significant progress on this commitment during the action plan implementation period, receiving an assessment of “substantial” or “complete” implementation.

Starred commitments can lose their starred status if their completion falls short of substantial or full completion at the end of the action plan implementation period.

At the end of term, Malawi’s action plan did not contain any starred commitments.

Finally, the tables in this section present an excerpt of the wealth of data the IRM collects during its reporting process. For the full dataset for Malawi, see the OGP Explorer at http://www.opengovpartnership.org/explorer.

About “Did It Open Government?”

To capture changes in government practice, the IRM introduced a new variable “Did It Open Government?” in end-of-term reports. This variable attempts to move beyond measuring outputs and deliverables to looking at how the government practice has changed as a result of the commitment’s implementation.

As written, some OGP commitments are vague and/or not clearly relevant to OGP values but achieve significant policy reforms. In other cases, commitments as written appear relevant and ambitious, but fail to open government as implemented.  The “Did It Open Government” variable attempts to capture these subtleties.

The “Did It Open Government?” variable assesses changes in government practice using the following spectrum:

  • Worsened: Government openness worsens as a result of the commitment.
  • Did not change: No changes in government practice.
  • Marginal: Some change, but minor in terms of its effect on level of openness.
  • Major: A step forward for government openness in the relevant policy area, but remains limited in scope or scale.
  • Outstanding: A reform that has transformed “business as usual” in the relevant policy area by opening government.

To assess this variable, researchers establish the status quo at the outset of the action plan. They then assess outcomes as implemented for changes in government openness.

Readers should keep in mind limitations. IRM end-of-term reports are prepared only a few months after the implementation cycle is completed. The variable focuses on outcomes that can be observed in government openness practices at the end of the two-year implementation period. The report and the variable do not intend to assess impact because of the complex methodological implications and the time frame of the report.

Commitment Implementation

General Overview of Commitments

As part of OGP, countries are required to make commitments in a two-year action plan. The tables below summarize the completion level at the end of term and progress on the “Did It Open Government?” metric. For commitments that were complete at the midterm, the report will provide a summary of the progress report findings but focus on analysis of the ‘Did It Open Government?’ variable. For further details on these commitments, please see the Malawi IRM mid-term progress report 2017.

Malawi’s first action plan contained five commitments focusing on improving access to information, increasing civic participation, reducing corruption, improving public sector delivery, and increasing transparency in extractive industries.

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