The novel coronavirus (Covid-19) is spreading rapidly around the world. In times of a global health crisis of this kind, getting accurate information about government activities, relevant legal acts, social services, public spending on various government efforts to respond to existing challenges and new initiatives to support socially vulnerable groups becomes ever more important. In order to effectively fight against the pandemic, states should fully internalize the past experience and take every step necessary to ensure open and proactive access to the information on Covid-19 related projects and activities.
Wider society should have the opportunity to get updates and hold the government accountable. Proactive provision of information about government activities will ensure higher public trust and confidence towards their governments and mobilize collective efforts for pandemic crisis management. At the same time, access to regularly updated data on websites of particular public institutions ensures that journalists and other interested parties can easily obtain data and make their own analysis. On the other hand, such a proactive and open approach will ease the administrative burden and resources of public institutions. While governments will establish effective communication and information provision practices with citizens and all groups of people in the country.
To date countries face the challenge of conducting fast and effective procurement in order to acquire the goods and services necessary for fighting against Covid-19. As a rule, due to the state of emergency announced in most of the countries effected by the pandemic, national legislations foresee the necessity of conducting public procurement within a limited period of time and allows avoiding competitive process of procurement (such as electronic procurement, tenders, etc.). However, these provisions should not be interpreted as posing risk to transparent and accountable public procurement. On the contrary - ensuring the openness and transparency of the procurement process is particularly important nowadays when a considerable financial sources (state budgets, special funds, international aid and private donations) are spent on conducting urgent procurements aimed at fighting against the pandemic. The concern is based on previous examples of corrupt practices in the process of medical procurement such as the ones linked with the Ebola crisis. It is particularly important for low-income countries since they are most vulnerable to corruption risks.
Taking into consideration the existing challenges posed by the global health crises IDFI developed Guidelines on the Proactive Publication of Information by Governments during the Covid-19 Crisis and the Guidelines on Covid-19 Related Public Procurement. IDFI provided international community, governments and civil society organizations (Open Government Partnership (OGP), African Union, The Freedom of Information Advocates Network (FOIAnet) with the guidelines and hopes that the documents will provide decision-makers, governments, civil society organizations and all other relevant stakeholders across the globe with practical information on the types of public information that should be published proactively by various governmental agencies on their websites describing the measures taken in the process of fighting against the crises and on the steps that need to be taken in the process of conducting procurement aimed at responding to the challenges caused by the current pandemic.
IDFI trusts that increased and enhanced transparency and accountability will ensure public trust towards their government’s action during the Covid-19 crisis.
The publication of this article was financed by the Open Society Institute Budapest Foundation (OSI). The opinions expressed in this document belong to the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) and do not reflect the positions of Open Society Institute Budapest Foundation (OSI). Therefore, OSI is not responsible for the content.
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