22 February 2013

Tanzania: New Measures Aim to Make Tanzanian Government More Transparent

Dar es Salaam — Tanzanian government agencies will begin making documents related to budgetary matters available to the public starting in July, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Mathias Chikawe told Sabahi.

Chikawe said every ministry has been instructed to ensure that all budgets are published down to the village level starting in the new fiscal year.

He said that if, for example, the government budgets an amount for building a classroom in a village, the appropriated amount should be communicated to the villagers so they can report on how the funds were used.

"It has been done like this in the Philippines and been proven to work," he told Sabahi. "We are going the same route."

The move is part of ongoing efforts aimed at making the government more transparent, he said, with the administration in the process of finalising legislation to be introduced in parliament regarding the right to access information.

"From March 1st, we are going to place adverts in newspapers to invite views and opinions on how open the government should be," Chikawe said. "We decided at the cabinet level that we should at least start with three sectors: health, education and water."

He said Tanzania will also consult with other African nations as part of joint efforts to assess each nation's information laws and levels of government transparency. "Ministers responsible for legal issues in Africa have agreed to introduce peer-review mechanisms ... specifically addressing how open our governments are," Chikawe said, adding that African ministers will hold their first such review in September.

Greater accountability

Emmanuel Humba, director-general of the National Health Insurance Fund, said the new law is a good idea because it would lead to greater accountability.

Humba said ordinary citizens should be aware about how much money has been budgeted for local dispensaries, health centres and hospitals.

"Once this information is available, this will be the death of corruption and misappropriation of public funds, because people will demand the service based on the provided information," he told Sabahi.

Kajubi Mukajanga, executive secretary for the Tanzania Media Council, which leads the Coalition for Right to Information, said the struggle for more government transparency has been going since 1993.

"At last, the government has listened to the public outcry," he told Sabahi. Mukajanga said the government should enact the law as soon as possible.

"Information is power," he said. "Once people are guaranteed access to information legally, we will see faster development, as the [administrative] loopholes that lead to mismanagement are going to be closed."

Lawyer Deusdedith Simbakaria of the Tanganyika Law Society told Sabahi that freedom of information is a fundamental right.

He said an open government is a welcomed change in the region, which has seen governments hindered by a dogma of secrecy that enabled corruption and delayed development.

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