Sierra Leone Aims to Join OGP After Passing FOI Bill

24 October 2013

Sierra Leone is hoping to join the Open Government Partnership soon and is pushing through a freedom of information bill in order to qualify for membership, according to informed sources.

A bill will pass on Oct. 29, a top overnment official told Freedominfo.org.

That timing would coincide with the OGP annual meeting in London Oct. 31-Nov. 1.

The sudden push to pass a law was announced several weeks ago, surprising activists. The campaign for FOI legislation has been under way for a decade and lately the signs had been negative. (See previous FreedomInfo.org report.) Another factor encouraging Sierrra Leone to pass a FOI law is a desire to qualify for the U.S. aid program, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, according to an informed source.

The bill was discussed at an Oct. 17 pre-legislative conference, according to a detailed report by Poindexter Sama in Awoka. Although some exemptions and the structure of the informaiton commission were subjected to criticisms, the bill has basically received favorable reviews from activists.

Scoring OGP Membership Points

Passing a FOI law will bump Sierra Leone over the threshold to join the OGP.

Countries must score 12 on the 16-point OGP eligibility scale. Sierra Leone was considered three points short.

Under the OGP system, four points are awarded to countries with access to information laws in place, three points if there’s a constitutional provision guaranteeing access to information, and one point if a draft access to information law is under consideration.

While FOI activists are pleased with the impending passage of what regard of a pretty good bill, there has been a recent controversy over perceived government threats against civil society.

Fifty CSOs sent a letter Oct. 13 protesting an Oct. 3 press statement issued by the Office of President after one group called for a minister to resign unless potholes were improved in three months.

The government responded by saying the criticism was “mischievous and a form of moral blackmail which will not be tolerated.”

The CSOs responded, “We believe this press statement is a first attempt to not only hinder and muzzle the space of civil society, but to arrogate to State House the powers to determine and curtail freedom of association and expression.”

An index unrelated to the OGP, the Mo Ibrahim Index 2013, shows that Sierra Leone has the largest 6-year (2007-2013) improvement in accountability with +14.9 score. The index statistically measures increase or decline in governance in Africa. Sierra Leone ranks 31 out of 52 countries in Africa.

61 or 62

Sierra Leone could become the 61st or 62nd OGP member.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Keyes Sept. 19 said his country wants to join, but has not submitted the requisite letter of intent. (See previous FreedomInfo.org article.)

OGP membership reached 6o in July when Malawi joined. (See previous FreedomInfo.org report).

President Obama on March 28 met with the heads of state of four African countries – Cape Verde, Malawi, Senegal and Sierra Leone – indicating afterwards that all four hope to join the OGP. (See previous Freedominfo.org report.) At the time, it was said that Sierra Leone needed three more points to qualify

There are 85 countries on the OGP list of qualified countries. Other 2013 sign-ons were Australia and Ireland. Russia in May became the first member nation to withdraw its membership.

According to a FreedomInfo.org tally in December, 2012, 16 of the then 58 OGP members had the highest score they could have achieved on the OGP eligibility criteria,

All Freedominfo.org reports on the OGP are here.

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