March 14, 2016 By Mohamed Massaquoi
Deputy Minister of Information and Communications last Thursday assured Sierra Leoneans that government was prepared to respond adequately to an Open Government Partnership (OGP) report, which was developed by an independent researcher for the OGP secretariat in Washington.
Theo Nicol gave the assurance during a Steering Committee meeting in Freetown, where civil society and government partners met to extensively discuss the report.
He said government was willing to work alongside civil society activists that have been working as steering committee members for the OGP process to look at certain gray areas of the report, which in the view of government were not properly reported by the independent consultant.
He added that it was wrong for the researcher to have said that government has reneged on most of its commitments, as stated in the national action plan.
“We should therefore send out a justifiable response stating the obvious and the fact that the report is skewed. These commitments are being implemented by government and its partners. Research is not about opinion; it is about facts and figures. In this report, the facts are a bit skewed. Implementation of the Right to Access Information Commission is currently working as opposed to the independent researcher’s notion that the organisation is not in existence,” he said.
He added that the establishment of the Open Data Portal was propagated by State House and other relevant institutions across the county and that only recently, there was an open data festival organised for people to participate in the process.
OGP chairman, Rev. Canon Ajayi Nicol, also expressed frustration that the report came out without the author speaking to the committee.
He said a good number of institutions cooperate with the committee, adding that the Anti-Corruption Commission, Ministry of Information, Parliament and the Records Management Committee were all doing well to ensure that the 11 commitments were met.
Head of Governance at Campaign for Good Governance, Mrs. Marcella Samba Sesay, said the OGP in Sierra Leone was at the centre of the governance structure of the country.
She said the process started with some benchmarks and that the country was chosen to showcase the methodology used in terms of partnership, evidence based and community engagement in the process.
“Our position in the Open Government Championship award was by no means a mistake, but a reality of where we are today with the OGP process. Consistent with goals of Sierra Leone, our commitments are not misrepresented. We set targets but the outcome of this independent report defeats the intent and purpose of the OGP,” she said.
The Independent Researcher, Charley Hughes, said he was contracted to do a preliminary investigation into the OGP process.
He said it was the responsibility of government to now respond to some of the comments and also point out areas that they thought were left out.
“I see no problem with this report. I have played my part as independent consultant and it is now with government to play their part. After all, this is a transparent process,” he concluded.