The Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC) and Media Rights Agenda (MRA) have called on the Federal Government to ensure the full implementation of Open Contracting in Nigeria such that procurements records and information are proactively disclosed by public institutions in line with the Open Contracting data Standards and the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, 2011.
In a press briefing in Abuja on November 19, 2019, the organisations observed that although Nigeria joined the Open Government Partnership (OGP) as the 70th member in 2016 and had the full implementation of open contracting as one of its commitments in its first National Action Plan (NAP), which lapsed in June this year, accessing basic contract information and records remained a challenge for members of the public, including civil society representatives and media practitioners.
According to Ms Gift Maxwell, PPDC’s Programme Manager, “PPDC and MRA have been implementing the Nigerian component of a project on ‘Strengthening Disclosure and Citizen Participation to Improve Value for Money in Public Contracting in Africa’, managed by the Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) in Kampala, Uganda, with support from the Hewlett Foundation, and we are worried at the level of impunity by public officials who continue to prevent members of the public from accessing procurement and contracting information.”
MRA’s FOI programme Manager, Mr Ridwan Sulaimon further argued that: “Although, as part of its obligation under the Public Procurement Act, the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) developed the Nigeria Open Contracting Portal (NOCOPO) which is expected to feed the public with procurement information from the public institutions, showing records of contracts from planning to implementation stages, however, the Federal Government must as a matter of urgency ensure that the institutions proactively publish their procurement and contracting data on the platform to ensure that it justifies its essence.”
Ms Maxwell said PPDC and MRA have worked tirelessly to realise the goal of institutionalising Open Contracting in Nigeria.
According to her, although the organisations have constantly engaged the BPP and other stakeholders to discuss the status of NOCOPO and the level of compliance by public institutions, it is sad that many public institutions still fail to upload their procurement data on the platform, thereby blatantly disobeying with impunity, the July 2018 circular issued by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) mandating all public institutions to use the NOCOCPO and upload their procurement information and records on the platform.
Mr Sulaimon added that: “the organisations – PPDC and MRA – continue to train various stakeholders including civil society organisations, journalists and citizens; they also featured on various radio and television programmes to sensitize a wider scope of stakeholders to engage the NOCOPO. However, the platform must also have the information for people to engage.
“This is a wake-up call on the Federal Government to ensure that public institutions feed their information proactively and timeously into the platform. Circulars should be followed with appropriate sanctions to give it the deserved effect whenever disobeyed,” he added.
The organisations commended the on-going efforts by the BPP to sensitise relevant stakeholders in the public institutions and urged it to steadfastly implement its commitment to train all the public institutions to be able to use the NOCOPO effectively.
PPDC and MRA urged citizens, journalists and civil society organisations to join the efforts in holding the Federal Government to account on its commitment to fully implement Open Contracting in Nigeria in order to improve access to procurement records and information, strengthen citizen participation in government and ensure that government contracts deliver good value for taxpayers’ money.