IT has been a long journey. Yes, a stretched path as far as efforts to ensure our national desire for an honest realization of public sector transparency and accountability is concerned.
The task is not easy, but doable and is achievable. We have tried to see this opportunity seized since independence. Our colonial masters signposted their desire to see our government and leadership transformed.
Then Mwalimu took over with a mission, among many others, to foster a culture of transparency and accountability. In many ways, all governments from Mwalimu to Kikwete did well. Obviously, it was tough for Mwalimu as it has been for Mwinyi, Mkapa, Kikwete and now JPM.
But as a country, we have great memories of past successes. We also have sad recalls of serious failures which led to Tanzanians suffering in the midst of plenty. With JPM coming to power, the drum beat has changed for better. It is now louder and clear.
Many say you cannot sweep under the carpet a clear political will and a growing appetite for reform among fellow leaders and citizens. The fifth phase government continues to deliver a strong political commitment, especially to specific priorities. All this is good news.
However, the task ahead remains massive because we are not there yet and the layers of public sector accountability and how it operates in practice can be complex. However, we must appreciate and join in because the journey continues.
Attractively enough, the achievements are much more vivid and we are lucky because of two things, among many other reasons. First we live in an era where these values have been, in recent decades, given priority, mainly as a response to the increasing public demand for more public sector transparency and accountability, not only in Tanzania but around the world.
Obviously, this demand is driven by, in part, globalisation that provides new opportunities. Secondly, the political economy of our time.
In my view, the fact that the fifth phase government under President John Joseph Pombe Magufuli is making this possible by clearly affirming and untiringly showing the way on what really should constitute elements of civil servants integrity, vibrant political will and undisputable political behaviour in Tanzania today.
Indeed, we live in an era where we hear JPM constantly bringing to the public square, his traditional understanding of public sector accountability as that which concerns the relationship between politicians and citizens, as well as to that between politicians and public managers.
This understanding, be it between internal and external, direct and indirect, vertical and horizontal accountability, has a considerable amount of time and in many parts on the continent, dying.
Unfortunately, many tend to forget what it means to be accountable, and the fact that public sector governance concerns accountability tasks in relation to the specific goals of this important sector beyond service delivery.
So they want to look at issues related to cost and quality of services only. This is not as it should be. It should go beyond to include the impact of the policies affecting communities.
And communities in diverse national setting, say for example, communities in Shanga, Mugoma Ngara in the far north-western Tanzania or Ipswich and Reading in the United Kingdom. Any accountability task which does not incorporate policy outcomes or value for tax money is inadequate.
No wonder JPM is firm and honest and calls for sound implementation of pro-poor national development policy framework, manifested in improved public financial management, and relative good governance standards, including an active fight against corruption, which is by and large a strong argument for possible further direction regarding citizen’s well-being. Why do I see things this way?
Well, it is because accountability breeds response- ability, writes Stephen Richards Covey, an American educator, author and businessman.
Similarly and in the same tone, John Stuart Mill, a British philosopher, political economist, and civil servant emphasizes, a person may cause evil to others not only by his actions, but by his inaction, and in either case, he is justly accountable to them for injury.
It is the level of transparency and accountability our leader showed for the past five years which will expose the limits of populism. So here we are. Tanzania’s 2020 election is around the corner, and in my view, the values of transparency and accountability shall be a measuring rod for our politicians.
This I stand for because accountability is closely interwoven with the practice of democracy. Democracy thrives on and is sustained by accountability.
I stand to be corrected, but anyone who will be standing up so as to be counted in the coming 2020 general election, he or she should be in a good position to be listened to, by citizens, if and only if, his or her institution is thriving.
If he or she was a leader or even a member of a certain institution, government or opposition, citizens would want to know the current state or health of the institution he or she belongs to or has been providing leadership in.
And the yardstick is simple; Effectiveness, transparency, accountability, anti- corruption, inclusiveness of decision-making processes, access to information, and non-discrimination. We need leaders who know very well that it is accountability which is fundamental to a democratic system.
Any acts of the government are supposed to be, in the final analysis, acts of the citizens themselves through their representatives. We want leaders who know and are ready to defend the truth, that the pursuit of the common interest requires a carefully designed structure of accountability that ensures for citizens the best efforts of those who act on their behalf.
It will be good news for some, but for others it will be tough because it is a wellfunctioning public sector that delivers quality public services consistent with citizen preferences that is of paramount importance for our future.
For those who have been weak performers, Joseph Fort Newton, an American Baptist minister has this to say to them; A duty dodged is like a debt unpaid; It is only deferred, and we must come back and settle the account at last. But there is no time to go back.
A few months remain, and as I mentioned earlier, the rhythm is clear, owing hugely to widespread public demands for transparency in governance and the global outcry against corruption. Let’s face it, accountability is now of serious concern in many countries, including Tanzania.
It is a sad truth, but it has to be swallowed. And it is well summarised by Catherine Pulsifer, an author, in the following words; at the end of the day, we are accountable to ourselves-our success is a result of what we did, and will do.
Dr Alfred Sebahene, PhD Social Ethics and Anti-Corruption Specialist Consultant St John’s University of Tanzania, Dodoma, Tanzania Email Addresses: arsebahene2@ yahoo.co.uk, alfredsebahene@ gmail.com Mobile: 0767 233 997