Open parliament: Sierra Leone’s national assembly committed to transparency for all citizens
Openness and transparency are key ingredients of democratic governance. The two promote accountability and trust, which are necessary for the functioning of democracies. WFD recently held a two-day virtual study tour in Sierra Leone to support the country’s Parliament in its commitment to be an open and transparent institution for all citizens.
Sierra Leone as a member of Open Government Partnership
Sierra Leone is part of a global collaboration formed by government leaders and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) called the Open Government Partnership (OGP). The partnership, which currently comprises of 78 member countries, was started in 2011 with the aim of promoting accountability and transparency, as well as responsive and inclusive governance.
The OGP initiative facilitates the creation of a connecting platform between government and its citizens. The policy areas addressed by the partnership benefits citizens by advocating for gender equality and inclusion; fighting corruption; upholding the civil society space; promoting quality education and health systems; and maximizing on opportunities of technology to promote digital governance aimed at advancing transparency and accountability.
To realize the benefits, all OGP-participating governments develop action plans that include concrete commitments over a two-year period. Sierra Leone joined the OGP in 2013. Since then, the West African country has implemented two action plans and is now on its third National Action Plan (NAP III). The NAP III (2019-2021) comprises eight commitments: access to justice; education; duty and tax exemption; beneficial ownership; access to information; gender equality; open parliament; and records and archives management.
Strengthening the open parliament commitment
The Sierra Leone Parliament is part of the national OGP process and is working towards fulfilling the seventh commitment of the NAP III – open parliament. This commitment entails steps to enable parliament to become more open and transparent to its citizens and effectively collaborate with other actors. To support this, WFD held a two-day virtual study tour on the 9th and 10th of December 2020.
The virtual learning tour enabled 15 members of the Sierra Leone OGP Parliamentary working group to learn from and exchange knowledge with parliamentarians, parliamentary staff and OGP practitioners from different countries on the implementation of the OGP priorities. Additionally, the study tour also welcomed the participation of the National Assembly Clerk and 10 Members of Parliament who are responsible for providing oversight on committees supporting the OGP-related commitments.
The study tour aimed to increase the understanding of Parliament’s role in supporting the actualization of the OGP commitments in Sierra Leone. The event also focused on increasing parliament’s commitment to the OGP process; employing methodologies on how to strengthen CSOs and Parliament’s relationship in implementing the transparency and accountability mandate; and finalizing decisions on the current state of the National Action Plan.
If the Sierra Leone Parliament embraces the OGP principles in an inclusive way – through working in alignment at both the national and community levels with women, youths, and other politically marginalized groups – OGP can be used as a tool to aid the Sierra Leone Parliament to carry out its legislative, oversight and representative roles to ensure better service delivery and enhanced representation, accountability, and transparency.
The study tour is not that first collaborative learning engagement between WFD and the Sierra Leone Parliament. In September 2019, WFD conducted a successful study visit to the Parliament of Georgia, where members of the OGP committee advised the Sierra Leone delegation on how to create parliamentary ownership of the parliament’s OGP commitments.