Date added: December 2, 2016

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Open Democracy Advice Centre (ODAC), a South African civil society organisation (CSO) working on transparency and accountability, has been heavily involved in the Open Government Partnership (OGP) since its inception. Through its contributions to and monitoring of South Africa’s OGP National Action Plans (NAPs), it saw that poor interdepartmental coordination was hindering the South African government’s ability to implement its ambitious commitments to revitalise the public service, promote transparency, and use technology to strengthen governance.

Making All Voices Count gave ODAC a practitioner research and learning grant to see what could be learned about interdepartmental coordination from different contexts, how these relate to the South African context, and how interventions like the OGP can enhance the potential for interdepartmental coordination.

Using a conversational format, this Practice Paper discusses both the research findings, and the broader context for open governance reform in South Africa. It highlights:

  • challenges for transparency and accountability advocates in South Africa which – despite robust legal protections – include attacks on key integrity institutions, endemic corruption and fear of speaking out
  • the history of civil society advocacy for a Permanent Dialogue Mechanism (PDM) as a vehicle to drive interdepartmental coordination on the OGP
  • ODAC’s strategic approach to working with government actors on implementing OGP commitments to encourage and enhance interdepartmental coordination
  • the structural issues that prevent the OGP from serving as a catalyst for opening government data, which include lack of synergy between different commitments, departments and agencies, little consideration of end users, no overarching legal framework, and poor fiscal planning for coordinated action
  • the risk that the success of the OGP is contingent on the political and institutional strength of the lead agency.

ODAC suggests that a better mechanism for managing the OGP initiative would be a PDM tasked with the responsibility of developing, monitoring and implementing the NAP. It would include departments with coordinating functions and mandates that cover OGP commitments, and civil society would have an equal voice. ODAC will continue to push for a PDM, and expand the scope for more diverse CSOs to contribute to the OGP initiative.

Download a two-page summary of the research report here.

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