This week: Trust for Transparency

procurement openess

As light begins to spread through government processes, budgeting, development, and the likes, there is one area where so far has largely remained hidden behind an untouched shroud of complexity. The Sunlight Foundation recently wrote about their (self-admittedly limited) research on procurement transparency
Results showed that procedural and pre- award information up through the point where the contract is awarded is reasonably accessible. However, after that point, the process slinks away to hide in dark corners. In most countries that Sunlight received responses from, tracking information on spending and implementation was nearly impossible.
While complex, a light bulb here could mean “AHA!” moments with new discoveries and at the same time could reveal a scrambling of cockroaches and corners that need dusting.
Meanwhile, IBP offered essential advice to CSOs working to build budget transparency. The first point was to build trust between government and civil society. Trust! It’s key in our personal lives when asking individuals to be vulnerable and the story isn’t much different when asking our governments to be vulnerable as well. 
And let’s be honest, transparency means being vulnerable. It means our government opening up to say, “here is what I’ve done, this is where I put your investment, this is the project I took a risk on, this is the action I thought it best to take,” at the most granular level. So it takes trust. Trust that we’re in this together for a greater purpose. Trust that we aren’t here just to point fingers or to tear down, but that we want to build something together. And just like those we encounter who have put up personal walls, some countries have built up quite a fortification, and it’s going to take some relationship building and maybe a little therapy to get them to trust.
So maybe that’s why the OGP started by letting governments define for themselves what being open would mean. Essentially saying, let’s start where you stand, and together we’ll move upwards. So, while Sunlight makes a good point that it usually takes the rule of law to make the kind of progress we are really looking for. The OGP is building trust, which will be important as we work towards creating the “vulnerable,” transparent governments we want.

Weekly updates are written by Taryn Davis of Development Gateway; email her your tips for next week's update to get a shout-out in the post.