Last OGP Action Plans to Be Presented in April Meeting

4 February 2013

Eleven countries will present their Open Government Partnership national action plans at a meeting April 24 in London, according to OGP officials.

The presentations will mean that all but one of the 58 OGP member countries will have submitted the plans that embody their commitments to more open governance. Argentina, the most recent country to join, will be given more time.

Those expected to submit their plans by the April meeting are: Azerbaijan, Costa Rica, Finland, Ghana, Hungary, Liberia, Mongolia, Panama, Russia, Serbia, and Trinidad and Tobago

Azerbaijan has already posted its plan on the OGP website.

The timing for the official posting of the other plans is uncertain, but it may occur after the April meeting. In most of the countries some form of public consultations has been under way.

Three of the countries – Ghana, Liberia and Mongolia – were among those whose plans were due in April 2012. The others signed up later and had indefinite deadlines.

An agenda for the April 22-24 OGP meeting has not been announced, but the presentations will be made in the afternoon of April 24. The OGP Steering Committee is also schedule to meet.

OGP action plans are intended to be living documents and are subject to self-assessments by governments and independent review. The Independent Review Mechanism is getting organized and the founding eight countries will be the first to be reviewed. (See previous FreedomInfo.org report.)

Budget Billboard Lights Up Monrovia

In Liberia, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf recently launched an electronic billboard in central Monrovia that will display budget information and is designed to help ordinary citizens understand the nation’s finances. The Open Budget Initiative is one part of the Liberian OGP effort, officials said. Web searches did not reveal links to a full OGP action plan.

The head of Liberia’s Anti-Corruption Commission Frances Johnson-Allison said at the ceremony that exemptions in the freedom of information law need to be corrected. “There has to be transparency and openness about people who are awarded contracts. We cannot just show you how much money government is generating and spending and we do not know those who are using the money to implement projects; how they are being awarded contracts?” she was quoted as saying in The News.

A sharper critique of the effort came in a column by Stephen B. Labalah, also in The News. He wrote in part:

 Openness is not a mere display of high monetary figure on a bright, view-friendly and towering screen in the heart of the political capital; it is the impact of the budget on the lives of every Liberian irrespective of status or creed or background. It is the prudent use of revenue accommodated, donor received and loans borrowed to build the country’s infrastructural facilities to connect farm to market roads so as to enable local farmers’ commodities reach market on time with less cost; ensure effective, efficient, and affordable health care delivery system; and provide quality education for all at the primary, secondary, tertiary, vocational and technical levels. Openness is not a silver-tongued and grandiloquent presentations and utterances; it is exhibition of integrity and shared commitment to account for public spending and ensure incomes and assets of every public official are monitored. Open budget should and must enable people to know what is embedded in the budget no matter the distance from Monrovia. It should provide reliable, credible and balanced information about the budget.

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