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Fostering openness

May 29, 2013, 12:48 PM

It is imperative to note that openness is indeed a key principle of good governance.

Freedom of information is a fundamental human right, that’s crucial in its own right. It is also the cornerstone of democratic dispensation, participation and good governance.

Therefore, there should be a concerted effort by the government and public bodies to address the problem of a ‘culture of secrecy.’

This should include comprehensive training programmes on implementation of the access to information, as well as the importance of openness in society. Such training should also seek to promote understanding among civil servants. This would, no doubt, enhance free flow of information and policy development.

Public education campaigns should be undertaken to ensure that the public are aware of their right to access information and responsibilities as citizens.

The former US President, John F Kennedy once said, “Without debate, without criticism, no administration and no country can succeed--and no republic can survive. Secrecy in government leads to suppression of truth and the birth of tyranny.”

It is, therefore, important that we once again realise the dangers of secrecy.

African governments need to recognise the importance of access to information for enhancing democratic engagement, building confidence in government institutions and strengthening their credibility and effectiveness.

However, in many states, including many formal democracies, people are routinely denied access to official information that should be in the public domain.

There is a dire need for us to advance the right of the public to know and to reduce secrecy in governance.

We firmly believe that when people are denied their right to know it can breed mistrust and, of course, lose confidence in one’s administration.

Openness, therefore, is important for not only governments but also civil society organisations and all other interest groups, so as to ensure credibility, public and donor trust.

In fact, good managers like openness; hence it helps them in their administration.