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Supporting effective use of data for anticorruption in OGP: Africa’s experience

Open Data as a tool to fight corruption

By Leonida Mutuku, Project Lead at the African Open Data Network

Photo by Joe McDaniel on Unsplash

Corruption is one of the main governance issues that the OGP movement aims to address. However, it has been noted by OGP that several anti-corruption commitments made by countries do not move the needle and our research has found that oftentimes it’s due to the complex nature of corruption in government. This is more so the case when the commitment aims to create and avail open data to be used in anti-corruption efforts.

Open data has the potential to increase transparency and, therefore, oversight in the delivery of government services. However, if the data is not produced and used effectively, its contributions to anti-corruption efforts are minimized. For that reason, in the development of OGP Open Data for Anti-corruption (OD4AC) commitments, we have to ask ourselves several questions including:

  • How will opening up this data address the roots of the corruption problem at hand (prevention, detection, investigation, and prosecuting corruption)?
  • Is there an enabling environment that ensures this data is constantly fresh and updated (political will, legislation and evidence-based policies, budgetary allocations, availability of technical skills)?
  • Are the necessary actors and stakeholders to effectively implement these commitments represented in the co-creation process? (government ministries/agencies and citizen representatives)

Learning from Kenya and Ghana’s experiences

Over the last couple of years, the African Open Data Network (AODN), hosted by the Local Development Research Institute (LDRI) has been conducting research to understand how African countries — specifically, Kenya and Ghana, have been developing and implementing OD4AC commitments in their National Action Plans in order to design knowledge tools and provide support in the co-creation of effective OD4AC commitments that can contribute to tremendous reforms in the two countries.

From our research, we have learned that while each country has its own priorities in the fight against corruption, the most common commitments that have been made by both countries include creating open registers of Beneficial Ownership and the development of Open Contracting portals. These commitments were also seen to be aligned to other international commitments made by the countries e.g. London Summit on Anti-Corruption, Open Contracting Partnership and EITI (Extractives Industry). Despite showing a clear connection between these commitments and government policy and national priorities, each country has faced challenges implementing its OD4AC commitments. These challenges were articulated by members of civil society and government agencies from Kenya and Ghana who attended a workshop we held in late 2020.

Despite the allocation of 3–4 months to co-creation activities, Kenya and Ghana are still struggling to get wide representation at the Multi-Stakeholder forums. The lack of full representation of relevant bodies to implement commitments co-created through the MSFs has resulted in limited financial and technical resources to implement commitments within government agencies and ministries. Additionally, some commitments have not taken into account the existence/lack thereof of supporting legal frameworks which might have been leveraged to provide guidance on how to implement and finance the commitments. Finally, we noted from steering committee members that they find it difficult to draft goals, objectives, and milestones for the anti-corruption commitments in an implementable manner when preparing the NAPs.

Developing and Using the OD4AC Commitment Creator

One of the key outputs of the study has been the development of a knowledge tool — the Anticorruption Commitment Creator — that guides participants from government and civil society through the process of drafting a commitment on open data to fight corruption. It offers a series of guiding questions for each section of the commitment and resources to ensure that all the critical elements that should be addressed in the final form of the commitment are considered and made explicit. The OD4AC Creator provides a 4-step method to drafting OD4AC commitments and is developed as a workbook organized to mirror the template provided by OGP for the creation of commitments. The tool also consists of an illustrative commitment to showcasing expected final commitment.

Kenya has used the OD4AC Creator in the drafting of an Open Contracting commitment that has been included in the NAP IV that was launched at the beginning of this month. The tool is also expected to be used by Nairobi and Elgeyo Marakwet Counties of Kenya as they develop their Subnational Action Plans over the next couple of months.

According to one of the members of Kenya’s National OGP steering committee, the tool has proven to be very useful to guide the refinement and articulation of what the anti-corruption objectives from the commitment are and how they are likely to contribute to wide reforms in governance.

“The tool was very complementary to the OGP template [on writing commitments] and relevant for the Open Contracting Commitment … especially on issues of interoperability and pinning it to the broader reform agenda, which was an approach this NAP decided to take…” Steph Muchai, OGP Steering Committee member.

The tool was also helpful in the definition of the open data that was expected to be produced and in what manner.

As a result, Kenya’s final Open Contracting commitment indicates that the country commits to developing an e-government system that is implemented as interoperable to all other existing government systems and adopts the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS), to cover all stages of public procurement in Kenya. This is especially significant when we reflect on the potential impact of the reforms made through the commitment, especially procurement for COVID-19 response and recovery measures. By making the portal interoperable with other government systems ensure that opening up the contracting data is systemized and sustainable as it is incorporated into the existing workflows in public procurement.

This approach for an interoperable portal was similarly expressed as a need by Nairobi County officials who we engaged in another workshop earlier this month. Nairobi was one of the subnational governments that recently joined the OGP movement and is interested in co-creating an Open Contracting commitment in their first sub-national action plan. Nairobi however, wants to also use the commitment to improve its procurement processes by increasing transparency and specificity at the requisition level. We are looking forward to seeing how the tool helps them think through how to make this ambition a SMART goal as it will remarkably change how public procurement is done at the county level.

Additional findings

From our experience, we suggest working with users for a period of time, after the initial consultation meetings at the Multistakeholder Forum (MSF) to use it to draft the commitment. The MSFs consultations create an opportunity for Stakeholders working on Open Data to confer with Anti-corruption stakeholders and come to an agreement on possible ways to implement the commitment to achieve the reform objectives. Using the tool after these consultations are done, ensures that all the aspirations and ambitions of stakeholders are taken into account and the tool supports the elaboration of objectives and outcomes through the guiding questions in a manner that improves the probability of effectively implementing the commitment and achieving the reforms sought.

We have also learned that the tool is most helpful to those who have not written an OD4AC commitment before and are excited to see more national and subnational governments use it in the creation of their commitments. However, we see an opportunity to add an addendum that consists of a checklist version of the tool that can be used by those who are drafting commitments continuing from a previous NAP and would like to use the tool as an opportunity to make theirs better, as the tool has been observed by users to be long, very intensive and immersive.

Finally, we have also identified that creating and sharing timelines before the co-creation process begins is really useful, in order to ensure no activities are rushed and that the support offered by such tools as the OD4AC Creator can be planned for and incorporated into the co-creation process well in advance. This is something the OGP community should account for and hopefully work on in the near future.

We found this experience in working with national and subnational governments really inspiring, which helped us capture key insights to improve the final version of the OD4AC Creator, as well as advise for better co-creation processes to ensure clear, quality and inclusive commitments that use open data to combat corruption in Africa.

This project is funded as part of the OGP Multi-Donor Trust Fund (MDTF) program on Advancing OGP’s Thematic Priorities, which aims to increase the proportion of countries with new potentially transformative commitments. Specifically, the consortium created between the Open Data Charter, Global Integrity, ILDA (Iniciativa Latinoamericana de Datos Abiertos), AODN (African Open Data Network), and OD4D (Open Data for Development Network) has collaborated with target countries in Latin-America and Africa to foster sustainable initiatives to use open data to fight corruption.

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