Open Parliament (SL0028)
Action Plan: Sierra Leone Action Plan 2019-2021
Action Plan Cycle: 2019
Lead Institution: Office of the Clerk of Parliament
Support Institution(s): Parliament of Sierra Leone specifically; - Departments: Information and Research Services (Public Relations, ICT, Research and Library) Finance (Parliamentary Budget Office) - Committees: Public Account, Transparency and Accountability, Finance, Legislative and Education. National Council for Civic Education and Development (NaCCED), Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) Campaign for Good Governance (CGG) Sierra Leone Union on Disability Issues (SLUDI) OGP Steering Committee OGP Multi Stakeholders Group
Policy AreasCapacity Building, Gender, Inclusion, Legislative Oversight, Open Parliaments, Participation in Lawmaking, People with Disabilities, Public Participation, Youth
Starred: Pending IRM Review
Early Results: Marginal
Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information , Civic Participation
What is the public problem that the commitment will address?
The Government of Sierra Leone has demonstrated
a strong desire to implement Open Government
Partnership (OGP) Commitments, as demonstrated
through the National Council for Civic Education and
Development identifying and adopting OGP as a
strategic pillar. Yet the Sierra Leone Parliament is
not playing a key role within the OGP process. It is
assumed that without Parliament’s commitment and
support in the process it will be challenging for many
of the OGP commitments to be fully implemented
and there will continue to be challenges in achieving
the Sustainable Development Goals. For instance,
Parliament currently has very limited platforms to
engage with citizens and CSOs and the Parliament
is yet to provide annual reports on their operations to
demonstrate leadership in accountability and
transparency as regards lawmaking processes,
oversight, and representation.
What is the commitment?
The commitment entails action that will enable
Parliament to become more open and transparent
to its citizens and effectively collaborate with other
actors in dispensing its functions as enshrined in
the Constitution of Sierra Leone.
Outcome 1: More open, responsive democratic
institution with increased civil society’s
engagement, the following are expected progress
- Parliament working group commits to
conduct oversight on the implementation of
the National Action Plan
- Parliament implement and monitor the
developed mechanisms for citizens’
participation in the legislative and budgeting
- Parliament to produce annual reports on all
its activities in an accessible formats
(including special needs group) and publish
in the parliamentary website.
- Parliament to hold consultations and
hearings with civil society organizations on the budgeting process, implementation,
critical public policy issues and the Auditor
General’s Report for constructive inputs and
Outcome 2: Greater access and inclusion of
women and marginalized groups and informal
political participation, the following are expected
- Develop a Gender and Equity Compliance
Checklist that will be utilized by Government
functionaries including political parties.
- Percentage increase in women and members
of marginalized groups contesting for
leadership positions in formal political
institutions in Sierra Leone
- Parliament to assess budgeting allocation
and approval based on the submission of
Gender and Equity Compliance Certificate to
ascertain that such body meets the
benchmarks set justifying the level of
accessibility and benefit received by
marginalized groups through government
programmes.How will the commitment
contribute to solving the
Three key approaches will be utilised in the
implementation of this programme and these are:
1. Capacity building of critical Committees
(Transparency and Accountability, Public
Accounts, Finance Committee, Legislative
and Education Committees) that will
establish Parliament’s leadership in OGP
and capacitating MPs and ‘OGP Working
Group’ as ‘champion’ in applying the OGP
principles in the delivery of their work.
2. Supporting inclusive mechanisms in
Parliament using an integrated approach
(we will be utilizing variety of resources for
different interventions as a way of inspiring
growth and positive output).
3. Building a network of marginalised
groups promoting OGP in local
communities and linking the work of
marginalized groups to Parliament which
includes women and the disability
Why is this commitment relevant to OGP values?
If the Sierra Leone Parliament embraces the OGP
principles in an inclusive way – through working in
alignment at both the national and community levels
with women, youths and other politically
marginalized groups - OGP can be used as a tool to
aid the Sierra Leone Parliament to carry out its
legislative, oversight and representative roles to
ensure better service delivery and enhanced
representation, accountability and transparency.
Additional Information An ad hoc Parliamentary committee, the OGP
Parliamentary Working Group, has been set as a
permanent committee to champion open
government issues in all Parliamentary proceedings
going forward. In addition, Parliament has
partnered with the National Council for Civic
Education and Development to undertake
constituency town hall meetings so as to keep
constituents abreast of proceedings in Parliament.
IRM Midterm Status Summary
7. Open Parliament
The commitment entails action that will enable Parliament to become more open and transparent to its citizens and effectively collaborate with other actors in dispensing its functions as enshrined in the Constitution of Sierra Leone.
Outcome 1: More open, responsive democratic institution with increased civil society’s engagement, the following are expected progress markers:
- Parliament working group commits to conduct oversight on the implementation of the National Action Plan
- Parliament implement and monitor the developed mechanisms for citizens’ participation in the legislative and budgeting process.
- Parliament to produce annual reports on all its activities in an accessible format (including special needs group) and publish in the parliamentary website.
- Parliament to hold consultations and hearings with civil society organizations on
the budgeting process, implementation, critical public policy issues and the Auditor General’s Report for constructive inputs and feedback.
Outcome 2: Greater access and inclusion of women and marginalized groups and informal political participation, the following are expected progress markers:
- Develop a Gender and Equity Compliance Checklist that will be utilized by Government functionaries including political parties.
- Percentage increase in women and members of marginalized groups contesting for leadership positions in formal political institutions in Sierra Leone
- Parliament to assess budgeting allocation and approval based on the submission of Gender and Equity Compliance Certificate to ascertain that such body meets the benchmarks set justifying the level of accessibility and benefit received by marginalized groups through government programmes.
- Updating of the parliamentary Annual Performance Plan to enhance citizens’ engagement in the business of Parliament (Legislature and oversight)
- Institute half yearly platform for CSO and Parliament to interact on various national issues
- Establish and train OGP working group to act as Parliamentary champions to ensure parliamentary openness and access to information
- Parliament shall develop annual report and ensure proactive publication of these materials to the public in an accessible format
- Access to parliament for persons with disability through a provision of a ramp and sign language interpretation (for major debates) to ensure all citizens are given due consideration in terms of availability of space, safety and protocols
- Parliament shall erect a service charter in 5 strategic locations and use of other media platforms (online, radio, TV) to enhance public knowledge on their mandates and services
Editorial Note: For the complete text of this commitment, please see Sierra Leone’s action plan at (https://bit.ly/3bPiqwh).
IRM Design Report Assessment
Civic participation, Access to Information
This commitment aims to open Parliament by increasing access to information and strengthening mechanisms for civic participation, with a particular focus on women and marginalized groups.  Sierra Leone is a democracy with a parliament consisting of 132 Members of Parliament (MPs), elected on the basis of the first-past-the-post system. However, the platforms for citizens to engage in the work of Parliament to support openness, transparency, and accountability are currently very limited. For example, Sierra Leone’s participation in initiatives such as the Open Budget Survey have confirmed that opportunities for public participation in legislative components of the budgetary process in Sierra Leone are low, with no or very little public participation during the approval and implementation stages.  The lack of mechanisms for participative democracy disproportionately impacts women, as women’s voices are already underrepresented in Parliament (only 12.3 percent female seats in 2018, the comparative average for Sub-Saharan Africa is 23.5 percent).  The lack of platforms for civic engagement also hampers the Sierra Leonean Parliament from playing a key role in the OGP process. 
The commitment seeks to open Parliament by developing instruments that provide information on, and account for the work of, Parliament (updating the Annual Performance Plan, publishing an annual report in an accessible format, and publicizing a Parliamentary Service Charter); establishing a standing platform for CSO-parliamentary engagement; making the physical parliamentary space more accessible for persons with disabilities; and training an OGP parliamentary working group to serve as an institutional mechanism to promote OGP values in Parliament.
This commitment is relevant to the OGP value of access to information, as it provides for open access to previously unavailable information on the Sierra Leone Parliament in the form of the Parliamentary Service Charter and the annual report. It is also relevant to the OGP value of civic participation, as a standing platform for CSO-parliamentary engagement and making the parliamentary space more accessible for persons with disabilities enhances opportunities for citizens to have their voices heard.
At the time of the design of the commitment, Sierra Leone’s 1991 Constitution did not provide for civic participation mechanisms over and above the direct election of MPs. For example, while the Constitution prescribes a variety of Standing Committees, whose function it is to oversee the activities and administration of Ministries, Departments, and Agencies,  there is no provision for citizens or CSOs to make submissions to, or appear before such parliamentary committees. There was also limited disclosure of the business of Parliament, which contributed to a misunderstanding of the role of MPs. 
If fully implemented as written, the potential impact of this commitment is likely to be moderate. The commitment is verifiable, but fails to identify milestones necessary for achieving the second outcome of ensuring greater access and inclusion of women and marginalized groups. The commitment represents a step forward in opening Parliament, as the baseline for access to information and civic participation is currently low.  However, it remains limited in scale and scope for the following reasons:
- There is no commitment to the open publication of the Parliamentary Annual Performance Plan.
- Publication of the annual report and Parliamentary Service Charter will not necessarily lead to greater civic participation.
- Other than the half-yearly platforms for CSO-parliamentary engagement, there is no commitment to reforming the operational space of Parliament to promote substantive citizen engagement with the budgetary and legislative processes. Such reforms could include, for example, publication of the status of all bills currently before the Parliament and their status, provision for citizens to make formal comments on draft legislation, opportunities for citizens to make submissions to and appear before Standing Parliamentary Committees, and publication of the minutes of Standing Committees.
- It is not clear how the parliamentary OGP working group will interact with the OGP Steering Committee to serve as “parliamentary champions” of the OGP process.
IRM End of Term Status Summary
Commitment 7. Open Parliament
Aim of the commitment
This commitment aimed to make parliament a “more open, responsive, democratic institution with increased civil society engagement.”  This commitment sought to have parliament engage in oversight of the implementation of the action plan, develop mechanisms for citizen participation, produce reports, and increase inclusion of women and marginalized groups.
At the time the commitment was drafted, Sierra Leone’s parliament did not play a strong role in the OGP process, provided limited opportunities for public engagement, and did not produce annual reports. This commitment was assessed to have a moderate potential impact increase citizen participation and access to information around the parliament. 
Did it open government?
The parliament of Sierra Leone substantially completed this commitment, resulting in marginal advancements in access to information and participation during the implementation period. There remains future opportunity to expand information disclosed and institutionalize opportunities for public participation.
The parliament of Sierra Leone drafted both an annual and a financial report (Milestone 4), which were printed and launched at a public event.  While printed copies were distributed, the IRM has not been able to access these resources online.
The parliament, with support from the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, released a phone application in May 2022 (Milestone 1). The app aims to open parliament by enabling citizens to follow parliament activities and get involved through a new channel of interaction. Users can find information about members of parliament, read press releases, research laws passed in parliament, and check out the parliamentary calendar, among other resources. Live video streams of parliament will soon be available. 
According to the data from the Google Play store,  there have been approximately 1,000 downloads of the app. Considering that about 80% of web traffic in Sierra Leone originates from Android devices,  it would be safe to conclude that relatively few of the 8.1 million Sierra Leoneans have access to parliament through the app. Alusine Diamond-Suma, the Country Representative for Westminster Foundation for Democracy and an OGP Steering Committee member, explained that the app was in the process of being re-downloaded again by citizens after being redesigned to make it usable by both Android and iPhone users. 
Parliament also developed both electronic and physical service charters (Milestone 6)  and built a ramp to promote persons with disabilities’ physical access to parliament (Milestone 5).  The charter was unveiled by the Speaker of the Parliament Hon. Abass Bundu in March 2021, with support from the Westminster Foundation for Democracy.  The service charter commits parliament to provide the best parliamentary service standards and to be a more open institution to the public. The charter details how citizens can seek and obtain information about their national assembly. According to Alusine Diamond-Suma, there was some engagement of persons with disabilities in these activities, since work was also informed by annual accessibility audits from the National Commission for Persons with Disability (NCPD) and the Ministry of Social Welfare. 
There is also a parliamentary OGP Working Group in place (Milestone 3), which meets periodically to discuss progress on implementation, with its own terms of reference and a Whatsapp group. The working group consists of 15 members of parliament. Additionally, there are 10 other members of parliament who are responsible for providing oversight on committees supporting OGP-related commitments.  This group has supported work on Commitment 6 on gender, currently pushing for the relevant bill—which, according to interviewees, only started gaining more support when presented as an OGP commitment by the working group.
Beyond achieving these milestones, parliament held the first-ever “Open Day”  around OGP issues, with speakers that included high-level governmental officers and invitees from other countries, encouraging parliamentarians to adopt the values of OGP. Also, parliamentarians responded to citizens' questions and gave information on their work. 
The parliament developed the Gender and Equity Compliance Checklist for government functionaries to help advance greater access and inclusion of women and marginalized groups and informal political participation.  The IRM identified relevant sources of accessible information on parliament, such as a fact sheet with information on female representation  (although participation of women seems to have not increased ) and a citizen's budget guide. 
Overall, implementation of this commitment was substantial and resulted in opening parliament to citizens. While the early results of this commitment are marginal at the time of writing, concrete measures can be taken in the future to enhance its results. By empowering citizens to participate in parliamentary processes, availing annual reports, developing an app to enable the public to follow its sessions, setting up a parliamentary working group, and conducting open days, parliament has taken positive steps towards making itself transparent. Next steps could include more active distribution of printed items throughout the country and updating parliament’s website to host relevant and easily accessible digital reports and other information.
Similarly, while engagement with the public through different events and mechanisms is a step forward in promoting participation, there is still room to institutionalize participation as permanent, rather than having one-time events. There are also opportunities to institutionalize the OGP working group and strengthen its role in supporting all OGP commitments and processes through a streamlined approach.