165 state institutions flout FOI disclosure rules

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The Bureau for Public Sector Reform has topped a list of 166 public institutions’ compliance with Freedom of Information provisions that require them to proactively and fully disclose public information. The rest 165 flouted at least one requirement.

It is the second year in a row BPSR has topped the ranking by the Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC)—this time getting all greens for proactive disclosure, responding to an FOI request within seven day, and fully disclosing information as requested.

“We didn’t have to send them FOI request,” said Gift Omoeididia, programme director for Budeshi, which works with PPDC on transparency, ahead of the ranking this year. “We just went to their website—and that’s earned them all greens for the second time.”

Independent Corrupt Practices Commission got red after it failed to respond to FOI requests ahead of the ranking, said Omoeididia.

Ten institutions, including Nigeria Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative, FRSC, NACA, National Bureau of Statistics and the finance ministry were ranked between second and sixth with at least one green for full disclosure even though they scored a yellow for partial proactive disclosure.

The FOI Act requires institutions to make available information related with procurement processes—including capital expenditures and capital warrant releases.

The number of institutions ranked on their willingness to make such information available has increased to 166, excluding the security sector, up from 15 when it first started in 2014.

“We are seeing competition, we are seeing growth among public institutions,” said Nkem Ilo, chief operating officer for PPDC. “We are seeing proactive disclosure.”

At least 91 institutions scored red on all three points—they failed on proactive disclosure, did not respond to FOI request nor did they disclose any information upon request.

They include the ministries of information, education and communication, NTA, Federal Inland Revenue Service, State House, Customs, Commission for Refugees, Office of Secretary-General, Office of the President’s Chief Economic Adviser, Auditor-General’s office, Bureau of Public Enterprise and Bureau of Public Procurement.

Ogbonnaya Oji, director of communication at NEITI, said the mass flouting of FOI was a huge challenge, suggesting the 91 institutions scoring all red did not understand what the Act required of them.

NACA, ranked sixth, scored green for full disclosure—on account of all its procurements filings structure to meet Open Contracting Data Standards and influenced by development and international partners it works with, said Chukwuemeka Nwafor, deputy director for procurement at the agency.

Alongside the National Human Rights Commission, the Budget and National Planning Office ranked 40th, down from 5th last year, for “no response” and “no disclosure.”

Ann Ndegwe, in charge of FOI desk at the office, explained the recent bundling of both the National Planning and Budget Office into one ministry created immense bureaucracy that retards prompt request to FOI request, noting that in the wake of the merger, information had been domiciled in different locations.

“The civil service has procedures that look unnecessary and cumbersome. They are there for a reason and, as fast as you want to move, you still have to follow them,” Ndegwe said.

“The essence for ranking is for reform,” said Edwin Ikhuoria, representative for the One.org Campaign in Nigeria.

“If the bureaucracy doesn’t allow you do that [comply with FOI Act], then the bureaucracy is disobeying the law.” DailyTrust

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