By Dipo Olowookere
The Federal Government has revealed that it would in a matter of weeks sign an executive order to promote transparency and efficiency for the creation of an enabling business environment in the country, saying this would mandate all Ministry, Agencies and Departments (MDAS) to adopt openness in contracting procedures and publishing of contracts.
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), disclosed this recently, while briefing journalists on the thematic areas of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and what government had accomplished so far; having joined the (OGP) initiative in July, 2016 as the 70th nation.
Mr Malami also read a riot act on treasury looters threatening any culprit with prosecution.
The AGF emphasized that Nigeria participation in the Open Government Partnership would enhance the ease of doing business in Nigeria and also provide opportunities for information sharing and cross fertilization of ideas with countries facing similar challenges like us.
He assured of collaboration with OGP implementing countries to ensure that all illicit funds in foreign banks are repatriated. “We will work with the network of OGP implementing countries for technical support especially in repatriating our stolen funds that are currently stashed away abroad”.
He maintained Nigeria’s resolve to join the OGP initiative was strategic as its principles fit into the existing efforts of the present administration towards ensuring that all conduit pipes through which public funds are misappropriated are permanently blocked.
The Minister further surmised that with these renewed vigour in fighting corruption, any person caught pilfering public funds shall be made to face the wrath of the law.
He also assured that “the FGN will continue to pursue reform programmes on transparency and accountability through targeted measures in promoting fiscal transparency, improved public procurement and open contracting, access to information, asset disclosure, citizen engagement and empowerment”.
The AGF equally noted that the ongoing journey from openness to national prosperity is yielding result in the following areas: Treasury Single Account (TSA) as well as the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS) had streamlined government revenue collection and expenditure which had saved the country billions of naira in the last one year.
He also enumerated that the Freedom of Information Unit in the Federal Ministry of Justice had been strengthened to provide timely information to the public and relevant policy feedback in compliance with FOI Act.
Mr Malami likewise hinted that the Bureau of Public Service Reform (BPSR) had adopted a unique electronic FOI platform on its website that gives real time information to citizens which smacks voluntary disclosure and currently working to improve on transparent and competitive public procurement in line with global open contracting principles through e-procurement.
On its part, the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) had adopted the open contracting standards in its operations and it is one of the first government agency to do so; stressing that the other agency of government where the openness initiative had worked is Code of Conduct Bureau.
According to him, the CCB has been able to implement its mandate of ensuring that public officers declare their assets promptly and that such assets are verified and recorded in accordance with the law.
Mr Malami further disclosed that appreciable success was also recorded in the banking sector, the enforcement of Bank Verification Number (BVN) scheme reduced fraudulent practices by dubious individuals to protect law abiding customers and restore confidence in our banking industry, thus making it possible to trail money, among others.
The AGF used the occasion of the media roundtable to inform the press about the forthcoming National Consultative Retreat of all stakeholders in the OGP process in Nigeria including civil society, professional associations, development partners as well as the organized private sector to make inputs into the design of our National OGP Action plan in Kaduna between 24th and 26th of October, 2016.
Present at the media roundtable were, representative of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Engr. Babachir Lawal, Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, Chairman, Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Chief Ekpo Nta, Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu and the Director General, Bureau for Public Service Reforms, Dr. Joe Abah among other dignitaries.