By Our South African Bureau Correspondent
Sierra Leone’s President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma was on Wednesday, May 3, 2016, commended by participants attending this year’s Africa Regional Open Government Partnership (OGP) meeting in Cape Town, South Africa for his leadership role in promoting transparency and accountability as encapsulated in the Open Government Initiative (OGI).
The commendation was made following an impressive presentation made by the Executive Director of the Open Government Initiative/Partnership in the Office of the President, Ms. Khadija Sesay on the progress report of the operations and activities of the OGP in Sierra Leone.
Speaking on the topic “Why Coordination And Monitoring Is Important”, Ms. Sesay elaborated on the unique model President Koroma envisaged and actualized by first establishing the Open Government Initiative and the recognition of the invaluable role civil society and the media have been playing in promoting transparency and accountability through a unique participatory model.
Highlighting the values of a participatory model, Ms. Khadija Sesay cited the establishment of mutual cooperation between government and civil society that eventually led to the formation of a steering committee with equal numbers of seventeen each representing government and civil society. Ms. Sesay further stated that whilst the OGI continues to serve as the coordinating team role for the OGP, civil society on the other hand continues to monitor the process in a complementary role so that government continues to be held accountable to the process. “This has been the magic for us in Sierra Leone and if today we are a proud member of the OGP, it is because of the vision of President Koroma who continues to provide the political leadership,” Khadija said beaming.
Giving an overview of the status report of the OGP activities in Sierra Leone, Ms. Khadija Sesay stressed that civil society remains an integral and important component for the overall success of the program, stating that the vision of the country is to institutionalize the OGP. “In fact, I am pleased to report that civil society has even presented a position paper to the Constitutional Review Committee, a body charged with the responsibility of reviewing the country’s 1991 constitution, so that the institutionalization of the OGP be included”, Ms. Sesay said.
She concluded by indicating that President Koroma remains unswerving when it comes to issues of good governance and democracy. “His commitment is demonstrated in the fact that he could approve for his Spokesman who directly reports to him, Mr Abdulai Bayraytay, to attend this all important session speaks volumes of government’s renewed support to the general principles and values of the OGP, Ms. Sesay said amidst rapturous applause.
In his contribution, Abdulai Bayraytay stated that President Koroma came into office in 2007 on a platform of improving the overall governance system of the country. He cited key recommendations of the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission following the devastating conflict endured in the late 1990s in which an inextricable link was established between citizens’ disconnect with the government thereby leading to alienation hence the recipe for chaos. “It is for this, among several reasons, that President Koroma, a year into his Presidency, established the OGI so that citizens can have a voice in the governance of the country”, Bayraytay said.
The Presidential Spokesman leveraged on the passing of the Right to Access Information and the launching and operationalization of the e-governance as pointers to how the president continues to believe that good governance could only be attained when citizens have access to quality information.
It was during contributions from representatives from Ivory Coast, Tunisia, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Malawi, Ghana and the Deputy Minister for Administration I in the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism of the Republic of Liberia, Andrew G. Tehmeh, all endorsed the structures the OGI/P Sierra Leone put in place and singled out Sierra Leone’s President Koroma for his profound commitment to furthering transparency and accountability in government with the active participation of civil society.
The session was moderated by Abhinav Bahl, head of the OGP Support Unit based in Washington D.C.
Sierra Leone joined the Open Government Partnership (OGP) in 2013 after meeting the eligibility criteria of fiscal transparency, access to information, income and assets declaration and, above all, citizens’ engagement.
The two-day OGP Africa Regional Meeting held in Cape Town, South Africa from May 5-6, 2016 at the Century City Conference Centre brought together civil society actors, NGOs, senior government officials, Ministers, international bi and multilateral organizations and the private sector including the Mo Ibrahim Foundation for Good Governance. The theme for this year’s conference is “Open Government for Sustainable Development in Africa”.