Activist says FOI Act is an Effective Tool for Budget Tracking

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The Deputy Executive Director of Media Rights Agenda, Jennifer Onyejekwe has said that using the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2011 will enhance effective budget tracking.  She reinforced this stance by saying: “The FOI Act should be used to know when budget decisions are being made, and by whom. This will enable the creation of intervention plans in a timely and effective way.”

Onyejekwe said this in a paper she presented at the Local Government (LG) Budget Watch Capacity Building Seminar organized by Human Development Initiative on October 23 and 24, 2013 in Lagos.   The meeting was designed to build a more sustainable work plan to increase public awareness for more transparency and accountability in governance issues at the local level.  It also aimed to increase citizen’s participation in LG budget building and tracking processes

Jennifer Onyejekwe, Deputy Executive Director Media Rights Agenda

She stated that: “The FOI Act 2011 provides for proactive disclosure as a means to promote transparency in governance.” Onyejekwe explained that under Section 2(3) of the FOI Act, the law states that certain information should be proactively disclosed to the public. She listed the categories of information which every public institution should disclose which includes: information relating to the receipt and expenditure of public or other funds of the institution; and information on applications for any contract, permit, grants, license or agreements. She reiterated that any public institution that does not proactively publish and disseminate such information that it holds is in breach of the FOI Law.

Onyejekwe said: “The Nigeria FOI Act requires government institutions to be more proactive and efficient in information disclosure which encourages citizen’s participation in governance.” Such disclosed information, Onyejekwe said is likely to promote the use of the FOI Act for budget tracking. She was of the view that: “effective budget tracking is enhanced when the FOI Act is engaged in compelling government to release information that will ensure the effectiveness of the tracking.”

She cited best practice activity that is practiced at LG level in India and their usage of the FOI Act. She explained that the LGs translated the FOI law into local languages and also practiced proactive disclosure by putting up information in both English and local languages on the respective LGs notice boards which include information of contracts and government provisions for the community.

She concluded by clarifying that the FOI law can be used for all public institutions at every level of government and encouraged the use of the FOI to access information at the LG level.