From Priscilla Ediare, Ado Ekiti
A coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) has said that corruption in the public sector will continue to rise due to a lack of transparency in the public procurement laws and providing the public with little or no information regarding contracts being awarded by elected and appointed officials of governments.
The coalition decried that despite the enactment of the Public Procurement Act 2007 and the Freedom of Information Act 2011, corruption has geometrically increased in the public sector due to a lack of implementation.
It regretted that the laws which were put in place to monitor projects and hold government and Nigerian leaders accountable have failed in their bids to prevent corruption in the purchases made by the government as a result of low compliance and for being shrouded in secrecy.
The coalition, however, identified and applauded Edo, Plateau and Ekiti States for their compliance with the laws, urging others to emulate them.
Mr Onyekachi Chukwu, a consultant with an Abuja-based NGO, Public Private Development Centre (PPDC), made the statements in Ado Ekiti, at a four-day 2022 Hackcorruption workshop jointly organised by Accountability Lab, Open Contracting Partnership(OCP) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Speaking on ‘Improving Accountability in Public Procurement’, Onyekachi, said the enactment of domesticated FoI Law and Public Procurement Law, had failed to stem the tide of corruption in contract awards and other procurements being undertaken in the public sector.
The PPDC Consultant added that contract awards and public procurements at every cadre of the public sector in Nigeria were being shrouded in secrecy and sparingly complied with, despite the promulgation of the Acts by the National Assembly and their domestications by the 36 states.
He said: “Public procurement is one of the most important aspects of governance. It is involved in everything government does and that was why each state has a Bureau of Public Procurement to vet whatever purchase the government is making to check corruption.
“The bureau participates in contract awards, but the public has not been paying attention to the operations of this office. The citizens have failed to engage this office to ensure that accurate data on contracts are made public in line with Open Contracting Data Standard.
“The public is not well informed about the usefulness of access to data, about contracts and procurement. A strict and compliant public procurement must pass through the stages of planning, tender, award, contract and implementation”.
Speaking about the significance of the procurement and FOI Acts, Chukwu said; “They are used to monitor projects and hold the government to account. These laws have enabled reforms in public procurement such as the adoption of Open Contracting and e-procurement.
“They have enabled citizens to enter into an informed dialogue about decisions which affect their lives. They have empowered citizens including vulnerable and excluded people, to demand their rights and entitlements.
“It has enabled Journalists and the Press to do factual reporting, eliminating a culture of rumour
and conspiracy; and encouraging investigative journalism that can help the public in holding our leaders accountable”.
On his part, Mr Shinwua Mnenga, the Project Officer, Accountability Lab Nigeria, revealed that the anti-corruption innovation project in public procurement is being carried out by the coalition for openness, using Ekiti, Edo and Plateau States as pilots.
Mnenga added that the essence is to check corruption and impunity by leaders and allow the running of all-inclusive governance that will benefit all Nigerian citizens.
“Available data indicated that Edo State remains a leading state in Nigeria in open contracting and procurement policy. Plateau State has huge compliance with the policies, with Ekiti not doing badly. They are the three leading states that had domesticated the laws and doing well in implementation.
“We are using these three states as pilots and engaging in training of partners so that we can come up with technical solutions to addressing existing gaps in public procurement in these three states and others.”