Role of the Civil Society in the OGP Implementation and UNCAC Review Process

Chambers Umezulike March 31, 2017 0

On 29 and 30 March 2017, the Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice through its Civil Society Advocacy to Support Anti-Corruption in Nigeria organised a 2-day workshop to build the capacity of selected CSOs and journalists on the concept of Open Government Partnership (OGP) and the implementation United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) in Nigeria including the second UNCAC review process. The workshop was also for enhancing the capacity of the invited organizations in their policy advocacy and engagement with relevant agencies of government around the issues.

In attendance were around 30 persons from mainly civil society organisations, including focal persons for the UNCAC review and OGP from EFCC, TUGAR and Ministry of Justice who were invited to the opening ceremony.

Highlights of the workshop include, first, the identification and use of red flags to monitor procurement processes session led by the personnel of Bureau of Public Procurement. He used the session to bring to the fore, key processes of procurement from the planning stage to evaluation, explaining how contracts are awarded, how contractors bid and how one can file a petition if not comfy with the bidding outcome. He also displayed to the participants, key pages of the open contracting website portal (being developed) through which all information on procurement and contracting from all federal agencies will be accessed online.

Secondly, there was a session on UNCAC Review Process and Mechanism with focus on chapters 2 and 5 of the convention. Chapter 2 was on Preventable Measures on Corruption while 5 was on Assets Recovery. The role of CSOs in the review process was also highlighted and discussed.

Thirdly and ultimately was a session on the OGP, led by Mr Stanley Acholonu of BudgIT. He used the session to highlight the 4 themes on Nigeria’s National Action Plan (NAP), a plan to be implemented in 2 years. The themes are Fiscal Transparency, Anti-Corruption, Citizen Engagement and Access to Information. There are 14 commitments under these themes with outcomes, indicators, activities, timeline, responsible institutions etc. He also mentioned of the review regime of the NAP and the importance of CSOs to be in either of the working groups. The latter are 7, namely, Fiscal Transparency, Anti-Corruption, Citizen Engagement and Access to Information, Innovation and Technology, Communications and Monitoring and Evaluation. These working groups are made up of governmental personnel and CSOs that meet regularly to access implementation. The roles of CSOs in the implementation include putting pressure and reminding the government of the commitments, carrying off independent review process and providing assistance to the government in the implementation of the NAP.

The workshop was a phenomenal one. I also met interesting participants and elemental stakeholders from several organizations whose group contributions were so helpful, and offside discussions during tea and lunch breaks, I learnt so much from. The OGP process most especially is the hope of Nigeria to get governance right. I hope we realize most of the commitments within the 2 year window.

 

Chambers Umezulike is a Programme Manager at Connected Development and a Development Expert. He spends most of his time writing and choreographing researches on good and economic governance. He tweets via @Prof_Umezulike.

The Future We See Through the Open Government Partnership in #Nigeria

Oludotun Babayemi October 25, 2016 0

“Amongst the 70 member countries of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), African countries has the most ambitious commitments, and also has the least number of implementations of their commitment as seen in the independent reporting mechanism but Nigeria can reverse that order as the country has made huge commitment at the London Corruption Summit and hopes to make it tandem with its anti-corruption campaign in the country” says Sanjay Pradhan during the first day of the OGP retreat in Nigeria on October 24, 2016 at the Hotel Seventeen in Kaduna .

The OGP CEO, Sanjay Pradhan making a presentation on OGP

The OGP CEO, Sanjay Pradhan making a presentation on OGP during the retreat in Nigeria

Looking at the panel to discuss commitments around the Nigeria OGP National Action Plan, I was deluded by the fact that the government representatives except for two, were not appropriate enough to discuss pertinent issues around beneficial ownership, open budget, open contracting,  transparency in extractives, access to information, and open data.  I quite  understand that the people in authority, in this ministries are hard to get for such conversation, but if it were really a “government – driven initiative” we should be seeing them coming to talk about these issues in the public.

I would have expected to see Zainab Ahmed, the Minister of State, Budget and National Planning making commitments of publishing online, location – based infrastructure data with their baseline indicators (current state) to the public by December 2017, so this can aid better planning; also the out-spoken Funmi Adeosun, the Minister for Finance committing that “detailed” government spending will be made available to the public by default as from November 2017, and also that the Bureau of Public Procurement will upgrade their website to include procurement plans, tender notices, bid evaluation,contract award documents, and termination information, while connecting it to a citizen feedback platform that can help make sure projects are really been implemented by contractors.

Nevertheless, there were some takeaways from the panel Joe Abbah, of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms had stated that by 2019, all FOIA request will be responded to in 2 minutes! In – fact, they have started something that looks like that in the Bureau, if you want to request for an information from the government, [APPLY HERE] I am sure you are all looking forward to this, it might not be rocket science! Also, the representative from the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) mentioned that for beneficial ownership to work, the Corporate Affairs Commission and the Companies and Allied Matter Act must be amended immediately to disclose beneficial ownership of companies, and not just the publishing of company names that are registered with the CAC which anyways, is a step in the right direction.

Looking across the Panel of government + CSOs

Looking across the Panel of government + CSOs

But why does it take the government a longer time than the 7 days proposed in the law to get a response to an FOIA request, the representative from the Ministry of Budget and National Planning stated that the oath of secrecy signed by civil servants prevents most of them to disclose information requested for through the FOIA. That’s so unimaginable! However, Joe Abbah, stated clearly, that we need to amend the public service rules because civil servants abide by rules and not laws!

My worry is not that leadership in the executive arm of government would not come out and make commitments, my worry is that implementing such commitment on the basis of a system that would not allow it to work efficiently is the reality, and such is the case for most African countries. As much as this becomes a drawback for me in this “government – CSO “driven movement, I am certain that few positives might be recorded, as we have started seeing from the Ministry of Justice, the agent of the state where the OGP is domiciled in Nigeria.