Address on Open Government Partnership by Hon. Emmanuel Kwasi Bedzrah

10-06-2021



Hon. Majority Leader, Kyei Mensah Bonsu; Hon. Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrissu; Distinguished Hon Members of Parliament; Friends from the Civil Society in the PMO space; Lovers of Multi-Party Democracy; The Media; Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is an honor done me by the Public Affairs Department to be part of today’s programme. It is also a blessing sharing the same platform with Distinguished leaders of the house for which I am most grateful.

The journey to Ghana’s Open Parliament has been long, winding and difficult, largely because Parliamentary Democracy continues to evolve. Also, the concept which comes with its bureaucracy in the delivery of public goods is relatively new in our part of the global divide.

I am therefore particularly happy that today’s event is being championed by no other institution but parliament itself. This indeed is a statement to the fact, that we are on our way towards implementing Open Parliament in its real form and substance.

Definition.

To begin with, it is important to make a distinction between Open Parliament and e-Parliament because the two concepts are often confused by many commentators who operate outside the confines of parliamentary systems. According to ParlAmericas, Open Parliament is a new form of interaction between citizens and legislative powers that promote parliamentary openness to ensure transparency and access to public information, accountability, citizen participation, ethics and probity in parliamentary work. On the other hand, e-Parliament or Digital parliament is defined as the use of ICT tools in parliamentary institutions with the objective of enhancing and strengthening their core functions and operations. e-Parliament concept therefore functions as a subset of Open Parliament in promoting openness and easy access to parliamentary work globally.

Historical Background

Having said that, let me proceed by providing a brief historical context for the Open Parliament concept. In the year 2011, some 78 Government Leaders (Executive Arm) and Civil Society advocates came together to create a unique partnership called Open Government Partnership (OGP) with the view to promote four key objectives including: Transparency. Participatory, Inclusiveness and Accountable governance. They tasked themselves to co-create a 2-Year National Action Plan with concrete steps or commitments across a broad range of issues. This model allows civil society organizations to help shape and oversee governmental commitments. Since OGP is a co-creation the executive body is also co-chaired (i.e Government and CSOs) with the same number of representation.

In 2013 some MPs realized that apart from the Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) National OGP to the International body, Parliaments play a major role in executive oversights when it comes to issues relating to Transparency, Participatory, Inclusiveness and Accountable governance. So, Parliaments cannot be left out in the OGP architecture.

We therefore formed a loose Association called Legislative Working Group, to lobby OGP for Parliamentary inclusion. Just as we have other thematic working groups like Open Data, Extractive Industry, Right to Information, Civic Space, Anti-Corruption etc. whist lobbying for parliamentary inclusion, members of the group noticed that Parliament itself is traditionally not opened and friendly to civic space and needed to purge itself. The group decided to adopt Declaration on Parliamentary Openness launched in Rome at e-Parliament Conference in 2012 as its working tool for any Parliament that wants to be part of Open Parliament. OGP officially accepted our proposal and currently one of our champions from PMO is now a Co-Chair.

The Ghanaian Situation on OPG

Ghana signed on to the Open Government Partnership (OGP) in September 2011; and as an obligation under the Partnership, developed and implemented two action plans. The government also provided the necessary reports like the self-assessment reports, end of term reports and both action plans to the OGP support Unit. Ghana now has a third National Action Plan which is a continuation of the country’s efforts to meet all the requirements under the partnership.

This third Action Plan intends to address the challenges identified in the development and implementation of the two previous action plans and build on the progress and achievements made.

Currently, Ghana is implementing 8 commitments out of its 2017-2019 Action Plan including;
Open Contracting and Contract Monitoring Anti-Corruption Transparency Beneficial Ownership Fiscal Transparency and Accountability Extractives Sector Transparency Right to Information Civic Participation and Accountability Technology and Innovation

It is also useful to indicate that the Declaration on Parliamentary Openness covers four 4 thematic areas with forty-two 42 Commitments. These are: Promoting a culture of Openness Making Parliamentary Information Transparent Easing Access to Parliamentary Information and Enabling Electronic Communication of Parliamentary information (Thank God to Covid 19 Ghana has learnt its lesson)

Todays’ theme: CITIZEN PARTICIPATION IN THE LEGISLATIVE PROCESS: GETTING CIVIL SOCIETY INVOLVED best fits our situation or could not have come at a better time. Today’s theme can now be considered under the following topics Strengthening and enhancing citizen Participation in the Legislative Process,Empowering Civil Society groups for more effective monitoring and influencing the performance of Parliament and state accountability, Managing Citizens expectation of Parliaments and its Members.

The first Topic relates to Part one of the Declaration and this is as follows:- (Read from 1-12 points)

The Second Point:- Empowering Civil Society groups for more effective monitoring and influencing the performance of Parliament and state accountability has to do with the formation of Steering committee of Open Parliament, this will be co-chair CSO and draft our own ambitious action plans to be adopted by parliament.

The process of OGP must be followed by allowing independent Reporting Mechanism and peer review. This will give confidence to CSOs and empower them to effectively monitor us.

Finally, Madam facilitator, Majority Leader and Colleagues. Managing Citizens Expectation of Parliament and its Members is an ongoing conversation among matured democracies. It largely depends on the individual MPs and the institution of Parliament as a whole.

Parliament needs to engage a consultant to find out what does our electorate expect of us, when do they want it and how do they want it. We should effectively communicate our achievement to them but this should all be in line with our laws.



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