Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Freedom of Information Act, a Landmark Reform in Transparency and Accountability in Governance.

Problem: The culture of secrecy from the colonial and military eras meant that citizens had little access to public information, there was no transparency in government building and the secrecy rule was used to mask pervasive corruption.

Reform Actions
Establishment of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI)
- A more vibrant Office of the Auditor General for the Federation
- Publication by the Federal Ministry of Finance of revenue disbursements to the three tiers of government
- Passage of the Freedom of Information Act 2011

Main Achievements: The passage of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011 was a landmark in the efforts towards improving transparency and accountability in governance. The passage of the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) Act, 2007 was very significant too. The publication of funds released by the Federal Ministry of Finance, as well as publication of tenders and government procurement, are also major achievements of these initiatives. The initiatives have led to a reduction in the perception of corruption by Nigerian firms in obtaining trade permits, in paying taxes, in procurement, in the judiciary, in the leakages of public funds, and in money laundering. The initiatives have also reduced unnecessary bureaucracy and red tape because processes, institutions, and information are directly accessible to citizens, and enough information is provided to citizens to enable them understand and monitor government activities.

Key Challenges: (a) the Freedom of Information Act is still under-utilised, (b) the publications by Federal Ministry of Finance have not been as regular as they were in the beginning, (c) there is slow implementation of NEITI recommendations, (d) non- consideration of audit reports by the National Assembly, and (e) serious efforts at transparency are not evident at state level, except in a few states. 

Reference:  Public Service Reforms in Nigeria (1999-2014) - A Comprehensive Review

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