Faces of Open Government – Vitus Adaboo Azeem
In this section of the OGP newsletter, we feature open government champions both from government and civil society, and ask them about their OGP experiences. Here is what they have to say:
How does open government make a difference in people’s lives?
Open government enables citizens to be aware of their rights and responsibilities and to demand these rights, especially for service delivery, hence changing their lives. Open government also enables citizens to know budgetary resource allocation, enabling them to demand accountability and reducing corruption which steals the resources that could have been used to provide basic social services and better their lives.
How have you benefited from exchanging ideas with your government?
Since 2000, I have worked on advocacy, budgets and pro-poor policies to draw the government’s attention to under-served areas through Memoranda via press releases, face-to-face meetings and workshops. Sometimes we have succeeded in getting them on our side, although not in all cases and not always immediately. However, I have now understand that my government faces several pressures and demands for resources for various developmental projects and services and may not be able to meet all the demands of the citizens in the country. In this case, open government helps citizens understand the government’s constraints, avoiding undue pressures on the governments.
Describe one OGP commitment from your country that you are proud of.
I am very proud of the determination to “strengthen the accountability mechanisms of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) by reviewing the composition of the largely dysfunctional Audit Report Implementation Committees (ARICs) to include CSO representatives and independent professionals who will more effectively implement the recommendations of audit reports”. For a very long time the Independent Audit Agency in Ghana, the Audit Service, has spent time auditing the Public Accounts of Ghana, Parliament has sat in public to review these reports and make recommendations but nothing happens after that. This OGP commitment seeks to review the Audit Service Act, particularly the provision on Audit Report Implementation Committees (ARICs), and make the necessary amendments to the composition of ARICs to include CSO representatives and independent professionals, with the aim of making them operational in order to recover huge amounts of money stolen from the state, and sanction the perpetrators.
How are you working to overcome challenges in opening up government in your country?
As a member of the Ghana OGP Steering Committee, I played an active part in the consultation processes leading to the design of the Action Plan and made contributions at most of the Steering Committee meetings. My organization, the Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII), is part of the Right to Information Coalition that has worked to get the RTI Bill passed by parliament but has still not succeeded. GII has worked to get the Public Officers Assets Disclosure law operational but has still not succeeded although the green light seems to be appearing for these two legislations. The main challenge is that politicians are not interested in opening up government for fear of what citizens can do with public information. GII continues to issues press statements, discussing the issues on radio and television as well as educating the public to put pressure on their representatives in government to take up the issues that affect their lives.
Vitus Adaboo Azeem is Executive Director of Ghana Integrity Initiative, Local Chapter of Transparency International. He is also a member of the Ghana OGP Steering Committee from its inception.