Transparency in governance; a pivotal & non-following  political concept

As I sat on the bus heading from Oshodi to Obalende, the passengers sitting behind me started a conversation on the numerous challenges bedeviling our country. Out of boredom, I listened to their many litanies of the nation’s challenges which were centered on transparency in Governance.

Nigeria was influenced by the transformative global democratization of the late 80s and early 90s. Before this time, governance in Nigeria has vacillated from one civilian administration at one end to the military government at the other end. Nigeria has enjoyed uninterrupted democratic government since the military gave way for civilian rule on 29th May 1999.

People bemoan the lack of good governance or corruption or usually both as the cause of the underperformance of our leaders. Sometimes ethnicity is made the scapegoat. These conclusions are reached when it is realized that the major force which is human and material resources are in abundance in our nation. The concurrent condition of good governance, democracy, and development in Nigeria is conditioned by the commitment to provide transparency in government by the elites.

The World Bank defines good governance as “one epitomized by predictable, open and enlightened policy-making… a bureaucracy imbued with a professional ethos acting in furtherance of the public good, the rule of law, transparent processes and a strong civil society participating in public affairs”. In democratic Nigeria, good governance would mean government efficiently and effectively delivering on its duties as demanded by the constitution to the governed.

It also means meeting the problems that might arise during the government’s tenure while fulfilling its promises in an equal capacity. Good governance is a necessity for any country’s developmental progress which must affect the people’s standard of living, income, security, and welfare. It must also include
government accountability to the electorates.

Nigeria’s public and commercial institutions are troubled by corruption which is encouraged by bureaucratic cult-like secrecy. Accountability and transparency should be the public servant’s report card on how public money is spent on behalf of the people. It is therefore apparent that accountability and good governance are intertwined.

How then do we measure accountability? Government accountability should be subjected to the following ACCOUNTABILITY Tests.

1. Performance milestones: Performance milestones provide reference points for assessing existing results concerning expected results. This is valuable for performance evaluation. Are the promises made during elections being achieved? Are the citizens satisfied with the state of the nation?

2. Measurability: Are these promises achievable within the duration of time promised? This will limit the number of unfinished projects and also ensures there is value for money in government expenditure. This will also prevent “budget padding” which is prevalent among politicians.

3. Strategic coordination: This focuses attention across functional divisions and agencies on common goals, themes, and issues. Strategic coordination will provide answers to common questions like ‘who’s in charge of what?’ and also limits duplication of duties among agencies and departments.

4. Goal clarity: When the scope of a task is clear, the steps linking the processes to the goal of the task are easier to follow and the goal is more likely to be achieved.

5. Public Morality Test- Is the business of government being run by people with a public conscience?

The last test is the most important.
Transparency in government should be characterized by the following:
(a) Full access to the workings of government to the masses.
(b) Access to information.
(c) Openness to public participation.
(d) Absence of undue secrecy.
(e) Readiness to face and accommodate legitimate scrutiny.
(f) Humility on the part of executive office holders through readiness to answer questions raised by citizens.

Transparency is therefore an instrument of accountability. Transparency is impossible or very difficult where freedom or access to public information is not guaranteed in the law or statute.

This article was written by Ayodele Moses, A content writer with TYLC.

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