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

11 comments:

luihamu said...

Metty you have said it again,we need trasparency everywere,we need to be the children of God now,we dont have to bribe anymore.But Metty why do you think bribe still exits today?How are we going to wash away the bribe system?

Anonymous said...

Yes Sirrr! You nailed it !

Just like i ve mentioned in ur previous article (comments)
This beast called corruption could easily be tackled by implementing policies like this and through affordable technology! ie Databases and real time networks being deployed in all central Govt bodies. Accountability, transparency and rule of law should prevail in any successful democratic country.Hence save your own behind mode will apply. Gone are the times of eating our cake and have it ! The Govt should look hard in the mirror and pull the trigger on this.

Anonymous said...

Oops that was me Msemakweli above

Jaduong Metty said...

@Luihamu
I think corruption in Tanzania, and in most LDCs, is rooted in poverty,while poverty is prevalent mainly because of corruption and lack of accountability - so it a cycle that never ends.

I strongly believe that corruption can end if there is a serious political will to end it, a reformed legal framework (such as the introduction of the RTI act), accountability and transparency. Unfortunately, we don't have that in Tanzania. I can guarantee you that most MPs got elected through "takrima", which is just disguised corruption.

Kama mwendo tu, bado tunao.

Jaduong Metty said...

@Msemakweli,

I hear you. Nonetheless, are there any creative folks in the government that would implement a serious strategic reform? I doubt it.

The last I checked, Mungai and Wassira are still in the cabinet..after how many years of service and having nothing to show up for it?

We need a visionary leader to even comprehend what you have hinted. Thus far, we have none. Zero. Nada. Which is sad.

Anonymous said...

@Metty

The entire TZ system (of governing) is in dire need of revamping. It stinks! It reminds me of samaki mmoja akioza analogy, even if there are few (think tank) leaders willing to alter the order of the day they unable unless they out of the loop of garbage in garbage out .

The government needs to be downsized and decentralized so as to share power with regional city and other local government.It would be more easy to manage our police, hospitals schools, cities and collect taxes and garbages & elect our own local leaders .ie Why do we need the Prezo to appoint RC ? Can you imagine this if you go to the Oysterbay police today they want you to bring the writting pad and a pen to open your case file? If you go to Muhimbili (BYOG)loves and bandaid ofcourse na kitu kidogo (true Story)

The conundrum of saving as waziri and mbunge at the same time is not an antidote either ! (its a joke!) Where is the real check and balance here ?

Naturally you cant bite the hands that feeds you! These guys (so-called leaders)has no motive for change, forced to kiss the Prezo behind as long as the the (ndio mzee ) is the order of the day.

You bet its counterproductive, saves no one but these few Prezo men (in their tugange njaa mentality) and not making real difference .Its a shame (If they have any left ) !If you ask me they are insulting the wananchi inteligency .Where is our pride and common sense ?
I bet you the recent African leadership prize $5million established by Mo Ibrahim for good governancy and leadership will never be claimed by TZ ! (Kwa mwendo huu)

Mungu Ibariki TZ

Msemakweli

Jaduong Metty said...

@Msemakweli
I agree with you. Our Bunge is probably the most toothless wing of the three. I am actually impressed by the judicial wing (particularly the High Court), which has tried its best to uphold the Law.

Wabunge? RCs? Quite a joke. I am sure there are a few who are responsible, but as you hinted, samaki mmoja akioza ..

It is like you have been reading my mind... I like the idea of truly decentralizing the government. Make everything local to push for more accountability. Case in point: Wassira apportioned a huge chunk of water budget to his Bunda constituency in the past budget, how could Mtwara people hold him accountable for that? If we had elected RCs, we can actually speak of our displeasure during the elections.

Mbunge-cum-Waziri thing? That is just plain stupid. I can understand the rationale for it - the "acceptability" factor, but it plainly violates the principle of checks and balances. So you're also right there.

Tanzania is too huge to be governed from Dar. The current system has not worked, and it never will.

Anonymous said...

Interesting piece, however what you have suggested is equivalent to someone shooting own's foot.

The government is not interested in revealing its own dirty little secrets. No is there any incentives for them to solve an issue like corruption.

I mean do you mean to tell me that JK doesn't know who is corrupted ? How can a senior civil servant amass such wealth at such a meager salary?

All three branches of the government are CCM, all corrupted and protecting each other.

"I gotcha your back, if you gotcha mine.. kinda thing"!.

On top of that, the only avenue that could have exposed them is the MEDIA, but they are the most incompetent bunch.

Or the media just happened to be owned by, bought by, or funded by CCM.

Hence, its all "STATUS QUO"; circling of the wagons. JK could have used Warioba (they sidelined him)to clean up the government, if he was not interested in protecting any one, or rather make use of the Transparency International Organization.... you know ...Pilato wash you hands kinda thing"!!

But there is a "nungwe" somewhere in there!

So its just a musical chair, once the music stop you will find out all the seats in this game of musical chairs are firmly occupied. In other words, once the Tanzanian majority wake up, they will find out, their so called righfull inherited natural resources, have been squeaky cleaned. I mean emptied. But what to do then, after all, they gave the CCM the mandate to do the deeds!!

Cynical!! I guess so, but that's the reality. Keep on writing bro!!

Abunuwasi

Jaduong Metty said...

@Abunuwasi
I would be insane to refute all you have said.

I am just innocently assuming that Mr. JK is serious about fighting corruption. My ideas and suggestions are based on the fact that the dude is serious.

Focusing on the past performance score card of CCM, it is impossible to expect anything positive. However, I am of the position that as long as we keep on pounding with information, at some point somebody will wake up.

So as you encouraged me, I will keep on writing.

SIMON KITURURU said...

But lets not forget the systems we refer too , in this case American one is also not that clean. BUt I agree with almost everything the above people said.

Jaduong Metty said...

@Moses,
The fact that Republicans lost after a embarking on a system of lies and deception proves your point - that no government is immune from corruption and brokenness.

The difference, however, is that the American system is well advanced that an ordinary Joe is not directly affected by what is going in Washington. The private sector in the US is able to stabilize everything.

Corruption in TZ hurts the most, because everything is centralized. Just one corrupt office in the Ministry of Health, for instance, could affect the delivery of healthcare in the entire country.

Briefly said, corruption is everywhere, but its effects differ between countries.