Wednesday, February 15, 2017/ 2:30 PM /Preston Consults
Nigeria formally joined the Open Government Partnership (OGP) initiative in July 2016, two months after President Muhammadu Buhari reaffirmed his commitment to strengthen anti-corruption reforms at the Anti-Corruption Summit organized by the government of the United Kingdom. OGP is a multi-stakeholder initiative that focuses on improving government transparency, accountability and responsiveness to citizens through technology and innovation. Formally launched in 2011 by 8 founding governments (Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, the Philippines, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States), the partnership has since welcomed an additional 67 governments, bringing the number of member countries to 75.
OGP’s vision is that governments become more transparent, more accountable, and more responsive to their own citizens, with the ultimate goal of improving the quality of governance, as well as the quality of services that citizens receive. For OGP to work in a country, the participating country must endorse a high-level open government declaration; co-create and deliver a country action plan developed with public consultation (government and civil society); implement commitments made by government; commit to independent reporting on their progress going forward; and, contribute to peer learning.
Nigeria’s OGP National Action Plan (NAP)
Nigeria has since co-created a National Action Plan (NAP) by government and civil society. This NAP, which will run from January 2017 until June 2019 was formally presented to a global audience at the OGP Summit held in Paris in December 2016. The NAP consolidates existing and new reforms within four thematic areas which promote: fiscal transparency; access to information; anti-corruption and asset disclosure; and, citizen engagement and empowerment. Table 1 below provides a breakdown of the commitments across thematic areas:
Table 1: National Action Plan - Summary of Commitments
Practical Opportunities for Nigeria in the OGP Initiative
In OGP’s first five years of existence, evidence shows that the national OGP process has helped countries establish institutional mechanisms that give continuity and legitimacy to open government reforms, made dialogue and co-creation regular features of the interactions between OGP reformers, and initiated reforms that change the status quo and benefit citizens
With the NAP implementation having kicked off in January 2017, there are innumerable opportunities for the country to engage with and benefit from the process. For example, Nigeria has committed to make policy formulation and decision making more transparent, create and use channels to solicit public feedback, and deepen public participation in developing, monitoring and evaluating government activities. Government has also committed to create mechanisms that enable collaboration between governments and civil society organizations and businesses. If well implemented, the 14 commitments are capable of producing truly transformative results, which will ultimately lead to better lives for citizens.
Fiscal transparency is essential to the fight against corruption, which mainly hurts the poor and marginalized. Transparent, broad-based and effective citizens’ participation are important determinants of the quality of government planning process. A number of questions arise. Are public infrastructure like hospitals, schools, roads, and clean water supply well planned, well built, and well maintained? Are public services of adequate standards and do they generally meet the needs of the citizenry? And do public servants provide services efficiently to taxpayers? Nigerians expect to be part of the entire budget cycle, through public deliberations, access to information on budget implementation, availability of simplified budgets and citizen’s guide.
With respect to access to information, the commitments under this theme will promote increased disclosure about government’s activities at every level. Enforcement of the FOI Act will see government systematically collect and publish data on its activities, spending and performance for essential public services and activities, and ensure that such high-value information are proactively provided to citizens, in a timely manner and in formats that can easily be located, understood, used and reused.
Similarly, opportunities abound for developing accessible and secure online spaces, as platforms for delivering services, engaging the public, and sharing information and ideas using new technologies. Government has already made giant strides in the use of technology to improve transparency in governance and service delivery, using such platforms as the Treasury Single Account (TSA), Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS), Bank Verification Number initiative, etc. However, the OGP Initiative provides even more opportunities to harness technology to enhance public access to fiscal data, develop portals to make budget and budget implementation information available at national and sub-national level; simplify the processes of providing business-process related information; increase public access to information on services most important to citizens; and create open data and public procurement portals, amongst others.
The commitment to improve transparency in the extractive sector, by publishing disclosures related to receipts and payments on all transactions across the sector’s value chain will have a huge impact, if achieved. A public register of beneficial owners of extractive sector companies is currently being championed by Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI). The register will reduce the risk of corruption, deter corrupt practices and enable their detection by shedding light on secret ownership structures that enable some oil, gas and mining companies to evade tax payments or hide improper relationships with government officials.
As Nigeria begins the implementation of its first NAP, it is imperative to position OGP as a powerful countervailing force for openness in a geopolitical context marked by increasing citizen distrust in government, elite capture, marginalization, and shrinking civic space. OGP should become the rallying point for reformers around the country who want to reshape and foster government-citizen relations, and to implement transformative open government reforms that tackle the toughest challenges facing the country in order to have a transformative and positive impact on citizens’ lives.
Consequently, over the next two and half years, OGP’s success will be measured not only by the increase in the number of government-civil society engagements but by the extent to which ordinary citizens benefit from government becoming more transparent, participatory, responsive and accountable. This requires a greater focus on supporting government and civil society reformers’ efforts in Nigeria to build a national movement for open government, and ultimately demand reforms on issues that are of utmost importance to the majority of Nigerians.
For comments, enquiries and more information on this brief please contact Dr. Tochukwu Nwachukwu on firstname.lastname@example.org