Institutional ReformsResearchThe Open Government in Morocco: Context, Objectives, and Outcome

Five years after Morocco’s embracing the Open Government Initiative, many of its goals have not been achieved yet, notably those related to transparency, integrity and the concrete implementation of the OGP concept, due to the lack of a clear legal framework structuring its work.
Abdellatif Chentouf Abdellatif Chentouf25/06/2024195842 min

Five years after Morocco’s embracing the Open Government Initiative, many of its goals have not been achieved yet, notably those related to transparency, integrity and the concrete implementation of the OGP concept, due to the lack of a clear legal framework structuring its work.

 

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Introduction

In 2018, Morocco joined the Open Government Initiative « Open Government Partnership (OGP)», seven years after the adoption of the new Constitution and the announcement of this initiative during the annual session of the UN General Assembly in September 2011. This initiative covers four main areas: budget transparency, access to information, declaration of the properties of elected and public officials, civic participation in government action and the need to develop a government project related to the Open Government. Since joining this initiative, Morocco sought to achieve these goals through a series of actions (the first National Action Plan 2018-2020 and the second National Action Plan 2021-2023).

However, more than five years after the adoption of this initiative, many of the goals that were set or required by the initiative’s terms of reference have not yet been achieved, especially those related to transparency, integrity and the concrete intergration of the concept of OGP in the theory and practice of Moroccan administration. This is due to the lack of a clear legal framework structuring the work of the OGP, as the administrative body that runs the defacto OGP is the Ministry of Digital Transition and Administrative Reform. Thus, the issue of institutional independence for the work of the OGP is always raised.

The selection method of representatives of civil society in the steering committee needs to reconsider the structure to be more representative of the different categories and regions in Morocco. There is also a need to reconsider the methodology and homogeneity of work and the insufficient mobilization of the OGP concept due to the lack of resources allocated to it.

This paper will address the « Open Government Partnership legacy in Morocco » by introducing it, contextualizing it, discussing its objectives and results achieved in the past five years, and finally reflecting on some observations and providing a few proposals.

 

1. Open Government in Morocco : Context and Background

The idea of the OGP is based on the principle of “participation”, which has become a constitutional norm in many countries. Participation requires the involvement of citizens in managing public affairs and producing public policies based on normative means that enable them to easily monitor these policies, evaluate and hold them accountable.

In fact, the OGP is reflected in the establishment of independent and mixed committees that bring together the administration and civil society in the countries taking part in this initiative, to track the application of the participation principle and other relevant principles that ultimately aim at transparent management of public utilities according to pre-established strategies that include many commitments.These committees operate according to standards agreed upon by member states, and periodic evaluation mechanisms, in addition to stipulating several conditions related to OGP area of work for countries wishing to join this initiative.

The OGP was first launched by eight countries: Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, the Philippines, South Africa, the UK, and the USA. It was announced during the annual session of the UN General Assembly on September 20, 2011. It is supervised by a Steering Committee of 22 members representing governments of member states and representatives of international civil society, and currently includes 77 countries[i].

There are several requirements to join this initiative involving four main areas: budget transparency, access to information, publicity to the properties of elected and public officials, civic participation in government action, the need to develop a government project related to OGP, as well as other formal conditions.

The OGP is based on general principles such as transparency and accountability to reach a greater goal of participation of citizens in public affairs (Civic Participation), and therefore its definition should be closely tied with these principles and objectives. However, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has noted that some countries interpret these global principles differently depending on the interest of public policy makers and according to political, economic and social factors[ii].

In the OECD’s quest to create a unified definition for OGP, the latter has been defined as “a governance culture based on innovative policies and practices, inspired by transparency, accountability, participation, and the promotion of democracy and inclusive growth”[iii].

In Morocco, the idea of an open government began to take shape after the ratification of the 2011 Constitution, which includes principles that intersect with the current field of activity of the OGP. Thus, Morocco expressed its willingness to join this global initiative. In October 2012, a committee was created in order to operationalize the government statement approved by Parliament in January 2012, whose goal was to implement constitutional requirements and define actions that enshrine good governance, integrity, transparency and responsibility.

The concerned sectors provided the conditions for joining this initiative, through the implementation of several projects ‘particularly those related to budget transparency, access to information, integrity, and civic participation. These efforts culminated in the promulgation of Law No. 31.13 on the Right to Information in the Official Gazette on March 12, 2018. Therefore, Morocco fulfilled these conditions and became, on April 26, 2018, the 76th member of the OGP’[iv].

In this context, Morocco cooperated with the OECD, whose role is to accompany the OGP projects, as it supports countries in their “efforts to build more transparent, accountable and participatory governments that can restore citizens’ trust and promote inclusive growth. It also provides actionable recommendations and in-depth analysis of the OGP policies and initiatives and helps to further integrate OGP principles and practices into policy-making and impact assessment processes.[v]

The OGP in Morocco currently consists of:

– Supervisory Committee: It includes eighteen members, half of whom are representatives of the various government departments concerned with the OGP action plan, and the other half are from CSOs. The second half is selected by a Mixed Committee according to predetermined criteria after the candidate associations fulfill the conditions included in the nomination announcement. Membership is renewed every two years, and members cannot be nominated for more than two terms[vi]. The role of the supervisory committee is to “set the strategic directions of the OGP in Morocco and mobilize the relevant stakeholders.”

– Implementation Committee: “consists of the heads of projects of the National Plan for the Open Government. Its role is to implement Morocco’s commitments and prepare the periodic reports.”

– Civil Society Organizations Forum: it is a space for proposals, communication and sensitization, open to all CSOs interested in the topics of the OGP[vii].”

The general legal reference that guides the work, principles, and goals of the OGP in Morocco is contained in the 2011 Constitution, as well as in several legal texts, directives, programs and recommendations. The first chapter of the Constitution states in its second paragraph that the constitutional system of the kingdom is based on “the separation of powers, their balance and cooperation, citizenship and participatory democracy, the principles of good governance, and accountability[viii]. For reference, these principles are almost the same as those contained in the proclamation of the OGP in 2011[ix].

The law on the right to information, the law on the right to petition in the area of legislation and public authorities, as well as the operationalization of the participatory approach at the regional level are considered significantly  important[x]. The royal speeches, the government program presented in 2012, and the principles and recommendations of OGP initiative and those issued by the OECD serve as a reference for OGP in Morocco.

 

2. The Outcome of Five Years of Experience

The objective of Morocco’s accession to the OGP is to apply the latter’s principles to the work of public administration in general. The principles in question are: transparency, integrity and participation.

After joining the OGP initiative on April 26, 2018, Morocco developed a National Action Plan for the period 2018-2020, and then a second plan for 2021-2023 to consolidate the three principles in the public policies of the Moroccan administration. The first National Action Plan[xi] involved many commitments, notably the right to information held by administrations, integrity, fighting corruption, budget transparency, civic participation, communication and awareness-raising about OGP workshops. The second National Action Plan[xii] mainly focused on transparency, quality of public services, equality, inclusivity, open justice, civic participation, and open territorial communes.

3. Open Territorial Communes

 Given that the work of the OGP in Morocco is based, according to what was announced, on the commitment to formulate, implement, and evaluate schemes in a participatory manner[xiii](administration and civil society), the OGP website has published the completion rate of the commitments contained in the Nation Action Plan 2018-2020 :

Table 1: The National Action Plan 2018-2020

Commitment completion rate: 84%

Areas Completion Rate
Access to Information

6 commitments

98%
Anti-Corruption and Integrity

4 commitments

80%
Budget Transperancy

3 commitments

74%
Civic Participation

4 commitments

72%
Communication and raising awareness of the importance of OGP

1 commitment

97%

Source : OGP portal

Table 2: The National Action Plan 2021-2023

Commitment completion rate : 34%

Overall progression rate:

Commitments : 22

Commitments not initiated: 16

Commitments in progress: 6

Areas Not initiated In progress Completion rate
Equality and Inclusivity

3 Commitments

0 3 43%
Open Justice

3 Commitments

0 3 33,7%
Civic Participation

4 Commitments

0 4 52%

Source : OGP portal

In order to practically and empirically verify the fulfillment of the commitments in the first plan 2018-2020, the « Chafafiya » portal was created[xiv]. This comes in implementation of the 6th commitment related to establishing a portal for transparency, which was included in the first axis related to access to information held by administrations. This website includes a range of data  related to transparency.

The commitment to establish the National Integrity Portal contained in the second axis of integrity and anti-corruption, has not been fulfilled (up to the moment of writing this paper). Thus, the question arises about clarifying how these percentages are reached by comparing them with the fulfilled commitments so that it is easier for the browser to know specifically what has been accomplished and what has not.

Having presented the goals and results of the OGP in Morocco[xv], what are the observations that can be made in order to develop its performance, open new horizons, and draw on the accumulation of experience in the area of work of this important initiative ?

3. An Experience that Requires Several Improvements

In order to develop this project and achieve its objectives, motivated by the experience and expertise gained through membership in the OGP from 2018 to 2020, a set of recommendations can be proposed based on the observations provided and the shortcomings identified:

– Lack of a clear legal framework structuring the work of the OGP :

From an administrative and financial point of view, the OGP is not affiliated with any particular ministry, and therefore there is no internal administrative body that manages its work. Nevertheless, officials of the Ministry of Digital Transition and Administrative Reform collaborate with the heads of projects in various departments concerned with the commitments of the OGP action plans, to implement the outcomes of the OGP meetings.

In fact, as in the case of other bodies, at least a decree must be issued to organize the OGP’s work administratively and financially, establish its bylaws, define its structures, headquarters, committees, mode of operation, expenses and preservation of its data.

As a result of the lack of a legal framework, the administrative body that manages de facto the OGP is the Ministry of Digital Transition and Administrative Reform. This raises the issue of institutional independence for the work of the OGP.

– The selection of civil society representatives in the Steering Committee, in fact, largely respects the criterion of transparency and democracy through publicizing the selection criteria[xvi]. However, civil society representation should be broadened by creating a National Council of CSOs with mandatory regional representation (in the form of Parliament). This council / body can meet twice a year to discuss the general directives of the Steering Committee, which in turn should meet at least once a month to ensure that these directives are implemented.

This proposal would ensure regional representation for the OGP and would also enable the Steering Committee to benefit from the expertise of civil society and integrate it into a well-structured public debate within the framework of the “National Council”. This would institutionalize the participatory approach and help the OGP concept to spread regionally and nationally.

– The OGP in Morocco needs to gain more visibility, as it is not known to professionals, academics, and public opinion. This requires introducing it to universities and all spaces of culture and knowledge through the media. Furthermore, after the selection of OGP members, comprehensive training should be organized for the new members to understand their roles, the concept of the OGP and its mode of operation.

– Working in thematic groups allows organizing the themes under discussion, with the possibility of seeking help from experts from outside the groups.

The groundwork and cohesion among the OGP members, especially the supervisory committee, must be strengthened. Members should work as a team to represent administrations and civil society in order to achieve the goals of the OGP.

It is necessary to work on programs that have a tangible impact on users, such as creating portals that enable the provision of information services, submitting requests and receiving responses, as has already been done in some Moroccan administrations, whose expertise must be developed and disseminated.

The work and outputs of the OGP should be manifested in government programs and work of ministries and their foreign interests, so that its work has a significant administrative value and is publicized directly and indirectly.

It is necessary to find a mechanism to engage the constitutional institutions of governance and regulation, and the rest of the national institutions in the programs and strategy of the OGP, such as the Economic and Social Council, the Competition Council, the National Council for Human Rights, the Supreme Council of the Judicial Power, the National Authority for Integrity and Prevention and Fight Against Corruption, and the Public Prosecution. These institutions do not handle government work in the political sense and are independent. Therefore, the program and the government statement, which are contractual commitments with the voters and their representatives in Parliament, do not apply to them. Moreover, the OGP’s areas of work often intersect with the field of work of these institutions.

– It is crucial to value the OGP work and motivate the morally committed institutions, by publicizing the achievements of the OGP through the media.

In addition, it is important to ensure credibility in a strategic and purposeful way, and to take catalytic initiatives, such as the establishment of the Open Government National Award, to be granted to the ministry and institutions that have accomplished most commitments. Thus, it would create an incentive for the political and even administrative stakeholders supervising the ministry or institution to get more involved in the action.

 

Endnotes

[i] For more details, visit the OGP portal : https://www.opengovpartnership.org/fr/about/

[ii] Open Government, Global Context and Future Prospects, OECD Publications 2016, p. 03, available on: https://www.oecd.org/gov/Open-Government-Highlights-ARA.pdf. Accessed on March 30th, 2022.

[iii] Open Government, Global Context and Future Prospects, p. 03.

[iv] The official website of the Ministry of Digital Transition and Administrative Reform : https://www.mmsp.gov.ma/ar/decline.aspx?m=11&r=381

[v]  Open Government, Global Context and Future Prospects, OECD Publications 2016, p. 02, available on : https://www.oecd.org/gov/Open-Government-Highlights-ARA.pdf. Accessed on March 30th, 2022

[vi] The selection committee consists of a representative of civil society chosen by vote in a space for civil society in the OG portal, a representative of the private sector, a representative of the university and representatives of independent institutions and bodies that undertake competencies directly related to the principles of the OG. The selection process is attended by a representative of the Ministry of Transition Digital and Administrative Reform and representatives of relevant international organizations. Information on the selection manner and process is published.

https://www.gouvernement-ouvert.ma/docs/M%C3%A9thodologieSelectionMembreCopil_ONG-2y6Wz.pdf

[vii] The National Action Plan for Open Government 2018-2020, p. 6, published on the Moroccan Open Government Portal : https://www.gouvernement-ouvert.ma/docs/%D9%85%D8%AE%D8%B7%D8%B7%20%D8%B9%D9%85%D9%84%20%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D9%85%D9%84%D9%83%D8%A9%20%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%BA%D8%B1%D8%A8%D9%8A%D8%A9-1emNy.pdf

[viii]The Moroccan Constitution also stipulated in Chapters 12-14, 25-27-28-29-36 and 156 15 some regulations regarding the Open Government work.

[ix] OECD Review on Public Governance: Open Government in Morocco, OECD Publications, p. 25, available on : https://www.gouvernement-ouvert.ma/docs/Report–Open-Government-Morocco-Arabic-T0EDl.pdf Accessed on April 3rd, 2022

[x] Notably the following laws :-  Organic Law No. 64-14 relating to determining the terms and modalities for exercising the right to submit petition in the field of legislation.-  Law No. 13-31 relating to the right to information.-  Law No. 14-44 setting the terms and modalities for exercising the right to submit petitions to public authorities.- Organic Law No. 111.14 relating to Regions.- Organic Law No. 112.14 relating to Prefectures and Provinces.- Organic Law No. 113.14 relating to Territorial Collectivities.

[xi] Moroccan OGP portal, p. 93:

 https://www.gouvernement-ouvert.ma/docs/%D9%85%D8%AE%D8%B7%D8%B7%20%D8%B9%D9%85%D9%84%20%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D9%85%D9%84%D9%83%D8%A9%20%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%BA%D8%B1%D8%A8%D9%8A%D8%A9-1emNy.pdf

[xii] The National Action Plan can be found on page 102 in the Moroccan OGP portal : https://www.gouvernement-ouvert.ma/docs/Plan%20d’action%20OGP-nyPAe.pdf

[xiii] The document can be found in the OGP portal:  https://www.gouvernement-ouvert.ma/docs/D%C3%A9pliant%20OGP-tyOUQ.pd

[xiv] See :  http://www.chafafiya.ma

[xv] In addition to the two schemes mentioned above, the OG has worked through its mechanisms to organize numerous national and regional seminars, meetings and public debates. Moreover, some of these activities relate to the commitments contained in the aforementioned schemes.

[xvi] Some commented regarding the manner of appointing  the remaining members of the selection committee, with the exception of the representative of civil society associations, who is chosen by electronic voting by the associations.

For more details about the selection process and qualifications for candidature for the Open Government Steering Committee by civil society, see :  https://www.gouvernement-ouvert.ma/docs/M%C3%A9thodologieSelectionMembreCopil_ONG-2y6Wz.pdf

 

Abdellatif Chentouf

Abdellatif Chentouf

Abdellatif Chentouf, has a PhD in Law and is a Visiting Professor at the Faculty of Legal, Economic and Social Sciences in Rabat and Salé, President of the Club of Magistrates of Morocco.

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