Lagos, Monday, 23 October 2017: Media Rights Agenda (MRA) today inducted the Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC) into its “Freedom of Information (FOI) Hall of Shame”, accusing the Government’s oversight body for the civil service of an appalling record of non-compliance with the FOI Act.
In a statement in Lagos, MRA’s Legal Officer, Ms Morisola Alaba, catalogued a series of breaches of various provisions of the FOI Act by the Commission over the last six years that the Act has been in operation, and called on the Presidency to intervene in the matter as the Commission oversees the Government’s engine room and could hamper its ability to implement its programmes and activities or to deliver on its mandate, which include instituting transparency and accountability in government and eradicating corruption in Nigeria.
Established by Section 153(1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) as a Federal Executive Body, the Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC) is empowered to appoint persons to offices in the Federal Civil Service and to dismiss or exercise disciplinary control over persons holding such offices.
Ms Alaba said: “It is difficult to see how the Federal Civil Service Commission can, with any sort of credibility, exercise disciplinary control over persons holding offices in the Federal Civil Service for instance, for contravening extant public service rules and regulations, while the Commission itself is in violation of an existing Law such as the Freedom of Information Act.”
According to Ms Alaba, “Going by the clear and persistent disregard of the FOI Act by the Commission since the Law came into force, one can say without fear of contradiction that the claim by the Commission that its vision is to build a corps of highly focused, disciplined, committed and patriotic Civil Service totally dedicated to supporting the Government in the development of a strong, united and virile Nigeria, is untrue.”
Justifying the Commission’s induction into FOI Hall of Shame, MRA noted that since the passage of the FOI Act in 2011, the FCSC has failed to submit a single annual report to the Attorney-General of Federation, as required by section 29 (1) of the FOI Act, which has also made it impossible to determine how responsive the Commission has been to requests for information from members of the public.
It also cited the failure of the Commission to publish on its website or any other public platform the title and address of the appropriate officer to whom applications for information under the FOI Act should be made, as required by Section 2(3) (f) of the Act.
MRA noted that despite the express provisions of the Law, over the last six years since the FOI Act has been in operation, there is no indication that the commission has organized any training for its staff or officials to sensitize them on the public’s right of access to information or records held by government or to equip the relevant personnel with the knowledge and skills to effectively implement the Act, as required by Section 13.
It observed that the Commission has proactively disclosed applicable regulations and guidelines as well as the functions of each division and department of the institution on its website as required under Section 2 of the Act.
However, MRA said the Commission has consistently failed to proactively disclose information relating to the receipt or expenditure of public or other funds of the institution, information containing applications for any contracts made by or between the institution and another public institution, as well as the names, salaries, title and dates of employment of all employees and officers of the institution; and other information which it is obliged to disclose in accordance with Section 2 of the Act.
Ms Alaba noted that “It is unfortunate that the agency which oversees what is practically the engine room of the Federal Government is widely perceived as a place where irregularities and lack of due process are rife, and indeed the graveyard of so many failed governments.”
According to her, “This appalling reputation of the Federal Civil Service Commission is not helped by the recent FOI Rankings of Public Institutions in Nigeria published by the Public and Private Development Centre which indicates that the Commission is among Nigeria’s top public institutions violating the provisions of the FOI Act.”
Ms Alaba said in the light of the terrible record of the Commission, it is necessary for the Presidency to intervene in the matter because as the supervisory body for the engine room of government, the Commission is essential to the government’s ability to implement its programmes and activities as well as delivering on its mandate, including ensuring transparency and accountability in government and eradicating corruption in Nigeria.
Launched on July 3, 2017, the FOI Hall of Shame shines the spotlight on public officials and institutions that are undermining the effectiveness of the FOI Act through their actions, inactions, utterances and decisions.