Arusha. A major conference on transparency and accountability concluded here on Wednesday with participants almost unanimously agreeing that citizen participation is indispensable if governments are to be transparent and accountable.
Bringing together about 400 participants from both within and outside Tanzania, the International Transparency and Accountability Conference (ITAC 2022), a brainchild of WAJIBU – Institute of Public Accountability, took place here from October 11 to October 12, 2022.
Themed ‘A Meaningful Participation Towards Bringing Sustainable Development,’ the ITAC 2022 saw a number of sessions that address pertinent issues facing Tanzania, the region and the world organised where challenges were raised and solutions debated.
Inaugurating the two-day conference, Deputy Speaker of the Parliament Mussa Hassan Zungu said that transparency and accountability are essential for any country to achieve its development goals.
“Our government recognizes that and that’s why transparency and accountability are enshrined in our constitution,” said Mr Zungu who doubles as Ilala MP (Chama cha Mapinduzi). “The same goes for citizen participation in public affairs.”
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Mr Zungu added that citizens are central players in making sure that the government does its affairs transparently and that it is accountable to them.
It is encouraging, he said, that even President Samia Suluhu Hassan realizes that, telling from the way she has been encouraging citizens to watch over development projects implemented in their respective areas.
“On several occasions, she has encouraged the public to demand accountability from their leaders regarding the management of public resources,” Mr Zungu said.
“At the same time, she has been strongly encouraging them to speak against corruption and take ownership of the development projects,” added the deputy leader of the legislative body.
For his part, the Swiss ambassador to Tanzania Mr Didier Chassot said during the conference that involving citizens is essential in governing issues for it allows them to take ownership and support the government’s initiatives.
Citing the recent public uproar over the introduction of levies on all electronic transactions, Mr Chassot said: “It is clear the people were not involved during the earlier decision.”
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The envoy noted that the expenditure of public resources should be aimed at boosting social services to reach forgotten groups including women and youth.
“In my country, citizens are expected to participate in and oversee the use of government revenues through elections,” Mr Chassot added. “They can conduct an opinion poll to push through an issue.”
“For politicians, involving the people in implementing priorities enhances the chances of their being re-elected,” emphasized the envoy.
Maria Sarungi, a popular activist who has been at the forefront of demanding accountability within the government, called citizens “the real owners” of Tanzania and that they are the ones who should stand firm in ensuring that their government is accountable to them.
But Sarungi, who doubles as the CEO of Kwanza TV, said that it will be difficult for people to carry out the task individually and thus suggesting that working together is the only way forward if the efforts are to succeed.
“Solidarity is key and that is what I think is missing in our Tanzania,” said Ms Sarungi during the conference. “And we are missing that in Tanzania because there are people who say that I am behind you but, in reality, they are not behind you and they may as well be undermining you.”
Lukelo Francis is The Chanzo journalist based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.