Nigeria is now eligible to join the Open Government Partnership (OGP) under the recently released and updated eligibility criteria for 2014.
According to the OGP Secretariat, following the release of the updated Eligibility Criteria for 2014, many countries have seen their scores change over the last year. It said some adjustments in scores were a result of greater availability of data from the independent sources for the scoring, or due to a revision in the scoring metric itself.
The scoring of the asset disclosure metric was revised this year by the OGP Steering Committee on the recommendation of the World Bank.
The OGP said the revised metric is a more straightforward assessment of the legal framework in place for declaration of assets.
Besides Nigeria, other countries which are now eligible to join OGP following the updated eligibility criteria are Angola, Bhutan, Guyana, Luxembourg and Namibia.
Asset disclosure scores improved for Angola, Luxembourg, Namibia and Nigeria while Bhutan now qualifies are a result of a constitutional provision ensuring access to information, resulting in an increase in their score. Guyana passed an access to information law, improving their score on that metric.
To be eligible, countries must earn 75 per cent of the possible points. Fourteen countries are currently close to eligibility. These countries have earned above 60 per cent but below 75 per cent of the applicable points. They are Bangladesh (68.8 per cent), Belize (66.7 per cent), Bolivia (68.8 per cent), Ecuador (68.8 per cent), Guinea (66.7 per cent), Kazakhstan (68.8 per cent), Malaysia (62.5 per cent), Morocco (68.8 per cent), Mozambique (68.8 per cent), Niger (62.5 per cent), Senegal (62.5 per cent), Sri Lanka (68.8 per cent), Timor-Leste (62.5 per cent) and Zambia (62.5 per cent).
According to OGP, “Eligibility to join OGP is determined by evaluations of countries’ performance in four critical areas of open government: fiscal transparency, access to information, asset disclosure and citizen engagement. Three of the sources used in this 2014 eligibility report are updated versions of the same indices or databases used to initially determine eligibility to join OGP in 2013.”
“Countries can earn a total of 16 points for their performance in these four metrics, or 12 points if they are not measured in one of the metrics.
Countries that earn 75 per cent of the applicable points (either 12 out of 16 or nine out of 12) or more are eligible to join. As some of the indices OGP uses do not cover all countries, some countries are only measured on three criteria (and can earn up to 12 points)”, stated the partnership.
In November 2012, Nigeria indicated its interest in joining the OGP. Since then, however, the country was unable to meet the minimum requirements of transparent, effective and accountable governance to be eligible to join the multilateral initiative.
Prior to the recent updating of the eligibility criteria, Nigeria was only able to muster 10 points and was thereby ineligible for membership.
Nigeria’s non-qualification arose mainly as a result of the fact that there is no public disclosure of audit reports of public accounts; assets disclosures made by public officers are not publicly available while incomes are not disclosed; and government engagement with citizens were considered inadequate.
With the passage of the Freedom of Information Act in 2011, Nigeria had the full four points available in the area of Access to Information, which is the an aspect of membership that gives effect to citizens’ right to information. Under the OGP framework, four points are awarded to countries with access to information laws in place; three points are awarded if a country has a constitutional provision guaranteeing access to information; and one point is awarded if a country has a draft access to information law under consideration.
However, Nigeria’s performance in the three other categories had been insufficient to enable it meet the minimum eligibility criteria.
In the area of Fiscal Transparency, Nigeria’s score was only two points out of a possible four points based on a number of shortcomings in its constitutional and legal frameworks as well as institutional practices.
Nigeria publishes the Executive budget proposals publicly with a sample available online on the Budget Office website; the budget proposals also conform to the Fiscal Responsibility Act while the 2013 budget was presented by October 2012. However, there is no explicit requirement under the Fiscal Responsibility Act for an audit report of public accounts to be made publicly available. Besides, in practice, there is no record of public availability of the audit report.
In addition, although the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation is an autonomous body under the 1999 Constitution, it does not enjoy fiscal autonomy like other independent bodies of the government while its budgetary allocation has recently faced decline with its audit reports not acted upon by the National Assembly.
With respect to asset declarations and disclosure of incomes, Nigeria had two points out of a possible four points under the previous OGP assessment because although it had a law which requires declaration of assets by elected and senior officials, the declarations are not made public or publicly available while incomes are also not disclosed.
Nigeria was also previously only able to muster two out of a possible four points in the area of citizen engagement, which required that policy-making and the entire governance framework should be open to civic participation and engagement.