Originality of Commitments

The OGP calls on governments to develop OGP country action plans that elaborate concrete commitments. Commitments must:

stretch government practice beyond its current baseline with respect to the relevant grand challenge. These commitments may build on existing efforts, identify new steps to complete on-going reforms, or initiate action in an entirely new area.  OGP recognizes that all countries will be starting from different baselines. Countries are charged with selecting the grand challenges and related concrete commitments that most relate to their unique country contexts. No action plan or specific commitments will be forced on any country”.

Thus, while the Commitments can relate to work currently being done by government, they should move beyond what were existing plans as a progressive re-commitment to advancing open government. This is why ODAC undertook to research the source and originality of the Commitments finally selected. It should be noted too that the OGP called on Commitments to be as action-orientated as possible. It is highly questionable whether the heavy focus taken by the South African goverment on drawing up guidelines and feasibility studies is thus compliant.

1. Develop and implement an accountability/consequences management framework for public servants.

Sources: A review of the Batho Pele principles, in order to make them ‘more entrenched’ actually began in 2010. The principles are in fact actually already meant to constitute a framework. In paricular, the Batho Pele Impact Assessment and Revitalisation began in 2010. In the 2010-2014 Strategic Plan of the Department of Public Services and Administration, a direct medium-term strategic intervention is identified as maintstreaming Batho Pele into departments. Further, it was identified as a need in Vision 2030 of the National Planning Commission. There is thus little development of the strategic goals already in place.

2. Formalise partnerships with civil society organisations in all nine provinces to establish Service Delivery Improvement Forums (SDIFs) at local level to provide timely citizen report cards on service delivery levels at community level, especially in relation to primary health care, water, sanitation, environmental management and housing.

Sources: The first forum was launced by DPSA in Durban, in July 2010. This project has been a core project of the Department of Public Services and Administration since then. There is thus no development of the current plan.

3. Enhance the capacity and capabilities of communities to access and claim their socio-economic rights through the roll-out of national public education campaigns, specifically a public outreach campaign on Know Your Service Rights and Responsibilities (KYSR&R) to inform citizens about their service rights, responsibilities, and legal mechanisms available to hold government accountable.

The Know Your Service Rights project is a specific project already of the DPSA, and has been since it was first launched in 2007 according to the Presidency. Success in relation to the project was reported as part of its 2010-2014 plan. There is thus no development of the plan that was already in place.

4. Enhance national integrity through institutional capacity-building of National Anti-Corruption Forum (NACF) and Anti-Corruption Hotline.

The outline of the Commitment also forms a part of the DPSA 2010 Strategic Plan. The Forum was launched in 2001, the Hotline in 2004 (though there had been separate hotlines before then). There appears to have been no attempt to create innovative moves to enhance activities in relation to this area within the Commitments, outside what already exists.

5. Approve guidelines on sanctions for corruption related cases.

Developing a public service anti-corruption strategy (as a review of the previous strategy) necessarily forms a part of the 2010-2014 Strategy Plan of DPSA, and would be easily extended to include the sanctions. It was mentioned during the 2012 budget speech as a departmental focus. However, it is at least a new specific attenuation of an already existing obligation.

6. Develop a Citizen Participation guideline for Public Sector departments that would ensure that every public sector department across all spheres have a functional, resourced and capacitated citizen engagement unit which regularly and proactively engage with civil society.

Many Departments already have such guidelines. In 2008, a Public Service Commission study specifically recommended that Departments should be assisted in ensuring all sectors had such a guideline (the PSC already has a guide on facilitating citizen forums in place from 2005). In 2010, a general strategic objective of the DPSA was to enhance citizen engagement and public participation, and this is a very weak adaption of interventions already in place from the PSC.

7. Enhance the involvement of civil society at every stage of the budgetary process across all spheres of government to enhance the progressive realisation of socioeconomic rights and enable citizens to track public expenditure.

In 2008, a PSC study specifically recommended that Departments should be assisted in ensuring all sectors had such (the PSC already has a guide on facilitating citizen forums in place from 2005). In 2010, a general strategic objective of the DPSA was to enhance citizen engagement and public participation. The PSC noted in its 2008 report that they shd include budget information. However, this is at least a seemingly focused response on a specific a peculiar form of public participation inadequacies (as supported by the government led Public Participation Conference of 2012).

8. Explore the feasibility of establishing a single agency mandated by Government to develop a comprehensive and publicly accessible portal of environmental management information.

Though the extent of the Commitment is weak, this is probably the most original Commitment undertaken as a direct result of civil society contributions (forwarded by ODAC) made during consultations.

2 thoughts on “Originality of Commitments

  1. Pingback: Originality of Commitments Reviewed! | Open Government Monitoring

  2. Pingback: South Africa’s “informal” progress report | Open Government Monitoring

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