By: Bernard Abass Kargbo – Public Education Officer, ACC
On July 20, 2022, the African Open Parliament Index (AOPI) was introduced in Accra for the first time by the Africa Parliamentary Monitoring Organization Network (APMON). It exhorted States in the sub-region to collaborate closely with the populace to advance democracy.
The Pan African Parliament Civil Society Forum is coordinated by the Center for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria. The Africa OPI is a joint initiative with the APMON Working Group, which is made up of renowned parliamentary monitoring organizations in Africa, including the Mzalendo Trust (Kenya), Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana), Parliamentary Monitoring Group (South Africa), and Africa Parliamentary Press Network (APPN). Additionally, Directorio Legislativo, an Argentinean group that was a co-founder of the Latin American Legislative Transparency Index and Network roughly ten years ago, provided technical assistance.
The objective of the Open Parliament Index is to improve parliamentary institutions to increase parliamentary openness among national, subnational, and regional Parliaments.
This Index (OPI), which evaluates Parliaments throughout Africa used the three criteria of; transparency, civic participation, and public accountability.
In this maiden edition, the Sierra Leone Parliament excelled greatly among her peers, as she recorded great scores in the three thematic areas/scorecards which were graded as follows; public accountability was going for 30% and Sierra Leone scored 15.68% which is at par with Cape Verde and stood at second position and 1.36 percentage point above third-place Ghana. In civic participation, Sierra Leones Parliament also scored a lofty percentage point of 20.2 out of the 35%, surpassed only by Cape Verde and Ghana which stood at first and second places respectively. Finally, Sierra Leone’s Parliament is also among the top five (5) performers in the transparency scorecard with a score of 21.88% out of 35%.
This evaluation by the APMON and its partners has further reaffirmed the commitment of the Sierra Leone Parliament in keeping to the tenets of public accountability, civic participation, and transparency which are key aspects in combating corruption and building public trust.
The great result in this index by the Sierra Leone Parliament did not come as a surprise or out of the blues, but it stems from a commitment by the leadership and members of the current Sierra Leone Parliament who were willing to subject themselves to scrutiny by the country’s anti-graft agency. This was evident in the social media post of the Anti-Corruption Commission Commissioner while congratulating the Parliament "I am very proud of our Parliament. It is not every day that a powerful body like the Legislature can be investigated successfully by an anti-graft body in full; it happened in Sierra Leone. Since then, we worked with them to develop systems and processes that facilitate openness, accountability, and responsiveness. Today, they are second only to Cape Verde in West Africa for accountability…”.
With the use of the Index, civil society will be able to collaborate with national and regional Parliaments to identify structural obstacles to parliamentary openness and to jointly design changes that will increase Parliaments' capacity to improve their openness. Moreover, it will establish minimum criteria for evaluating the degree of parliamentary openness in African national and regional legislative institutions.
It will also further empower Parliamentary Monitoring Organizations (PMOs) and Parliaments to keep track of the extent to which the ideals of an open Parliament are being improved; The best practices for supporting openness in Parliaments should be documented, and the partnership between civil society and Parliaments should be used to co-create Parliamentary reforms, policies, and action plans that strengthen the institutions of Parliaments so they can more successfully carry out their oversight, lawmaking, and representation functions.
The Executive Director of PNAfrica, Sammy Obeng, beautifully puts it. “what does not get measured does not get done” and also stressed that this, will “help track the progress of African Parliaments which forms the backbone of thriving democracies and offer assistance where there may be shortfalls.”
©Public Relations Unit, ACC