THE information revolution unleashed by digital technology has led to broad changes for the better, improving many of the dimensions of our work, play and home lives. No product is made today, no person moves today, nothing is collected, analysed or communicated without some ‘digital technology’ being an integral part of it.
It is so useful that it has become an integral part of all of our lives. The revolution has also made it possible for nearly everyone to help in promotion of human rights and good governance. In Tanzania, like in many other countries, people can use mobile phones and computers to lodge complaints related to human right violations and contravention of principles of good governance before the Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRAGG).
The chairperson of the CHRAGG, Judge (Rtd) Mathew Mwaimu says CHRAGG has improved its Complaints Management Information System (CMIS) that makes it easy for victims or any person to lodge, or report human rights violation incidences from cell phone use.
In his opening speech of the multi-stakeholders conference on business and Human Rights in Tanzania, the CHRAGG head said by the CMIS, the allinclusive-staff and the general public will be able to access the system via CHRGG website, email, mobile app, Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) and Short Message Service (SMS).
The conference was attended by stakeholders, representatives from government preferably from ministerial level with a mandate related to the sector, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) working on the subject, local communities impacted by corporate/ business.
Other invitees were donors, representatives from some of the embassies, international Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and committed partners at the international level.
“The CMIS will provide interface for the complainants to lodge and track complaints seated at home, office and where they are without necessarily taking trouble to travel or use postage costs,” he says.
The National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) chief says the main objective of the improved CMIS is to advance the reporting and detection of human rights grievances as well as strengthening CHRAGG’s capacity, mechanisms and methodology to act on reported incidences/grievances of human rights harms and promptly provide analysis and follow-up.
The new system developed by IT Unit of the CHRAGG in collaboration with experts from the E-Government Agency (eGA) enables the CHRGG to reliably and securely share information, store data at centralised location and provide simplified and user friendly complaints collection tools.
The CHRAGG partners with a Belgium based NonGovernment Organisation-the International Peace Information Service (IPIS) and a Tanzania NGO-Business and Human Rights Tanzania (BHRT). CHRAGG Project Coordinator, Ms Jovina Muchunguzi, says the over-all objective of the project is to enhance protection, prevention, accountability and access to remedies, particularly the vulnerable groups.
The system will help generate reports based on gender, location, magnitude of incidences, weekly, monthly and on annual basis. CHRGG Head of Information Technology Unit Eng Manyiri Isack says before adopting the new system the public lodged applications on the system only by sending an SMS.
“Experience shows that some incidences were reported with very limited information, making it difficult to find the person who lodged the incidence,” he says.
He adds that it was necessary to update the system to allow users provide more information.
“This could be achieved only through simplifying the user interface by making it interactive for SMS users, developing a web interface for computer users and a mobile app for smart phone users”, says the Engineer.
An interactive SMS interface can be possible by using a shared government short code number 152*00. The short code works by linking the system with an SMS gateway where the user answers some predefined questions specific to the service. Some users may be interested to report or lodge human rights violation incidences via their personal computers and/ or mobile application.
The web applications are able to collect all information as indicated in the incidence registration form while the mobile app should be a compressed version of the web interface. The mobile App interface will enable smart phone users to download a mobile app; that will enable them to lodge and track complaints. Through the play store, or app store, then find Haki App thereafter.
The CHRAGG has functional mandates under Article 130 (1) (f) (g)of the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania and Section 6 (1) (f) of the CHRAGG Act, Cap 391 to investigate or enquire into complaints concerning practices or action by persons holding office in the service of the Government, public authorities, or other public bodies, including private institution and private individuals where those complaints allege abuse of power, injustices, unfair treatment of any person, whether a complainant or not in the exercise of the office.
In the word of Judge Mwaimu, it is not every complaint that will be handled by the CHRAGG. For the complaint to qualify to be investigated the complainants should first exhaust available grievance or other procedures prescribed by laws. Secondly, the complaint should not be made by bad faith.
Thirdly, the complaint should not be frivolous or vexatious. Fourthly, the complaint should be within the constitutional and statutory mandates of the CHRAGG. Fifthly, the omission or commission of the act occasioning to the alleged complaints should not exceed two years.
The Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP) adopted by the United Nations in 2001 recommend that, in addition to judicial mechanisms, States should establish alternative bodies, where victims of business-related human rights abuses can seek redress.
For these bodies to be considered effective they must be legitimate, accessible, predictable, equitable, transparent and rights-compatible For example, the CHRAGG monitors human rights conditions across the country.
It has the power to investigate complaints and to make recommendations for compensation or other actions to remedy human rights abuses. The Prevention and Combating Corruption Bureau (PCCB) can receive complaints on allegations of bribery and corruption, as well as undertaking investigations on their initiative.
Some which could handle complaints before they were lodged before the CHRAGG include: Company level grievance mechanisms; Trade unionism through collective bargaining under the Institutions Act (2004) and ILO standards; Religious based mechanisms; Local Government Authorities (LGA) through Village/Mtaa Executive Officers and Sheha (Zanzibar);
Regional and District commissioners complaints Desks; Child rights Mechanism based on the Law of the Child Act (2009), especially the Role of Social Welfare Officers, teachers, parents, communities and the police (gender and child desks); Occupational Health Safety as regulated by the Occupational Health and Safety Act (2003);
Workers Compensation under the Workers Compensation Act (2008); The Environment Management Institutions under the Environmental Management Act (2004) In Tanzania Mainland and the Zanzibar Environmental Management Act (2015) (ZEMA), that provide legal and institutional framework to ensure sustainable management of the environment; BRELA for companies under the Companies Act (2002), public corporate as well as the Company Act (2013) for Zanzibar.
The powers of the CHRAGG have been wrapped up on the back to investigate matters pending before the court of laws or other judicial tribunals or been decided on merit courts; matters involving the relations of between the Government of any foreign state or international organisations, or matter relating to the President’s prerogative of mercy under Article 45 of the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania of 1977 and matter which the President decides otherwise in accordance with the frameworks of the Constitution.
Awareness campaigns on how to use the CMIS has been successfully done in four regions of Dar es Salaam, Mwanza, Mtwara and Arusha in Tanzania Mainland and regions of the Tanzania Mainland and as well as four regions of Northern Unguja, South Unguja, Pemba South and Pemba North in Zanzibar.
The campaign was conducted through public meetings, company level in-house meetings and the media in selected business corporate. Besides lodging and tracking complaints by using CMIS, an aggrieved person acting in such person’s own interest; an association acting in the interest of its members and, or a person acting in interest of group person can submit a complaint in writing, orally or by visiting the CHRAGG’s office in Dodoma, Mwanza, Lindi, Dar es Salaam, Unguja in Zanzibar and Pemba.
The CHRAGG is an NHRI and an ombudsman given mandates to promote within the country the protection and the preservation of human rights and duties to the society in accordance with the Constitution and the laws of Tanzania and International human rights standards.