Agency, group train public institutions on how to ease access to information

In its effort to achieve better public service delivery, the Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR) on Thursday trained representatives of various public institutions on how to improve citizens’ access to information.

The agency organised the one-day seminar in Abuja in partnership with the Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC).

Since 2016, PPDC in collaboration with Pan Atlantic University School of Media and Communication and Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism, have been advocating the adoption of the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS) by the Nigerian government in its contract award processes.

Consequently, Budeshi, a public procurement data platform, was deployed as an outreach tool to demonstrate the utility of the OCDS.

During the seminar, experts explained to representatives of various public institutions the importance of citizens’ access to information and its effect on service delivery.

In a paper presentation, Benjamin Okolo, Deputy Director, FOI Unit, Federal Ministry of Justice, said open government partnership seeks to promote fiscal transparency, anti-corruption, access to information and citizen’s engagement through technology.

Quoting section 29 of the FOI Act (2011), he said every public institution must submit its annual report on or before February 1 of each year to the Attorney- General of the Federation on all FOI request they received.

“Presently, only 73 out 900 public institutions in Nigeria have submitted their 2017 annual report to the Attorney-General of the Federation. This is the only report the Attorney-General by law submits to the National Assembly,” Mr Okolo explained.

PPDC’s Representative, Sam Offia, in his presentation shared some successes and challenges experienced by the organisation while requesting for procurement-related information from public institutions.

He also highlighted some of the benefits of having a proactive disclosure system.

“The seminar provided a forum for the active exchange of ideas on reform issues and shared experiences with a view to impart knowledge and broaden civil servants awareness on accountability and transparency.

“Lessons learnt from this seminar will help to enrich the debate about the future of the Public Service and its role in the delivery of services to Nigerians,” Mbanan Mku, the Communications Officer of the PPDC said in a statement issued after the event.

Last month, PPDC launched the sixth Freedom of Information (FOI) and Compliance Ranking at CBN International Training Institute, Maitama, Abuja.

The rankings, which commenced in 2013, and are unveiled annually on September 28 to commemorate the International Right To Know Day, are conducted to ascertain the compliance of public institutions to the FOI Act (2011) based on the disclosure of public finance expenditure information.

In this years’ ranking, Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) and Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) jointly emerged the most compliant public institutions, while the Nigeria Extractive Transparency Initiative, NEITI, came third on the ranking.

Others in the ranking are the Librarian Registration Council of Nigeria, which came fourth; followed by BPSR, Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC), Legal Aid Council of Nigeria, National Human Rights Commission, National Orientation Agency, Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC and the Nigerian Export Promotion Council, NEPC, jointly placed on fifth position.

The programme officer, Onyekachi Chukwu, while unveiling the rankings said “for the first time ever, there was a tie for the first position as two public institutions topped the 2018 Ranking list.

“PPDC ranked 187 public institutions and 11 security sector organisations. These MDAs are ranked based on; proactive disclosure; responsiveness to request for information and level of disclosure,”he said.

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