Wednesday, November 15, 2006
RTI for Tanzania: A Needed Strategy
I am a firm believer in making amends and tweaking one’s strategy to meet the current demands and realities. That is because what has worked yesterday would not necessarily work today. The environment changes and when that happens, we have to come up with a new game plan.
We are not monkeys, so we ought to learn. So when I learned about what the Indians are doing with regards to the right of information ,I got wowed. Despite the fact that the Indians started moving forward earlier than Tanzania, their story is somewhat similar to ours. The majority of folks are still living in poverty and corruption is the order of the day. Or was, because the introduction of the Right To Information initiative, has started to kill corruption, significantly.
Thanks Mr. AT of Columbus, Ohio for sharing this article.
I believe that one of the major factors leading to our current economic situation is lack of accountability and transparency. I know Mr. BWM came up with the “uwazi” slogan, but that ended up being just a sweet song that was never implemented. Enough said about that.
Corruption is brewed in an environment where accountability and transparency are just a foreign notion. I understand that the government is currently working on a bill to empower the Prevention of Corruption Bureau. That is fine, but that alone is not adequate. Borrowing a leaf from the book just written by the Indians, we need to empower our citizens more, and that can only be achieve through granting them a right of access to information.
Besides, all governments are supposedly working for the people. As the government officials' bosses, wananchi ought to know. That is their right in a democratic society.
Guess what? The Americans figured this out way back. The United States Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) enacted in 1966 , provides access to all federal agency records except for those records (or portions of those records) that are protected from disclosure.
I work for the state government, so I know that the Act works. Any citizen in the state of Ohio can request information on my travel expense reimbursement. Likewise, I can request information on how much money the governor is being paid. Heck, I can even ask and get the tax filings for the President of the United States of America to determine how much money George W. Bush made in 2005.
As I said, we are not monkeys, so we can learn. The Indians just did that. It is impractical to eradicate 100% of corruption, but at least you can get rid of “minor” corruption incidents that stand on the way of a regular mwananchi. I mean, do you really need to pay a bribe to get a death certificate? Do we really need to pay a bribe to enroll our children in school? The right of information is certainly going to eradicate all of that. Having the right of access too all the contracts the government signed, for instance, will bring accountability and shift enforcement on the hands of regular wananchi.
If we truly want to make socio-economic progress, we gotta enact the right to information. Poor folks have suffered for so long.
Photo. M. Mjengwa