By joining the global Open Government Partnership (OGP) and developing a National Action Plan in 2016, the federal government says it has saved over N200 billion.
According to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the money is different from the N7.8 billion, $378 million and £27,800 recovered through the government’s whistleblowers’ programme as at March, 2018.
In his remark at the “OGP week” retreat yesterday in Abuja, the Vice President said the over N200 billion was saved through the instrumentality of government’s Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA), housed in the Federal Ministry of Finance which was designed to clean up the Federal payroll and pensions systems, across all our Ministries, Departments and Agencies.
“PICA’s work in this regard has helped the federal government save more than N200 billion by eliminating ghost workers,” Osinbajo disclosed.
Professor Osinbajo said the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration is also actively leveraging technology in a way no previous government in Nigeria has, which he said underpins the President’s commitment to accountable governance. He said the ongoing effort to establish a public register of beneficial owners, gives the government hope that the era of anonymous company ownership which aids capital flight, illicit financial flows and tax evasion will soon be over.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, in his remarks at the event disclosed that a new website will be launched within the next two weeks to aid information gathering and processing across the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government.
“Within two weeks from today, the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation will upload its upgraded website: osgf.gov.ng which has a window for citizens’ participation. This window will be linked to the website of all MDAs, which allows your enquirers to reach its destination, using the OSGF quality control centre as the gateway,” he announced.
Mustapha said this kind of efforts will go a long way in reassuring citizens of the commitment of government. By that effort, the SGF said a strong signal has been sent to those that wish to perform unwholesome act of embezzling public funds; over invoicing of contracts and other forms of diversion of public funds as they are being watched by all stakeholders.
He said the government is waging an unprecedented fight against corruption through assets recovery, prosecution of acts of corruption, instituting new social economic system and culture as well as rebuilding anti-corruption institutions for prevention and minimizing of corruption.
In his keynote address, British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Paul Arkwright who commended Nigeria’s effort says the nation’s self-assessment report indicates that reforms in Nigeria’s first National Action Plan are on track.
Arkwright announced that the United Kingdom’s “Ministers have just approved £12 million we funding for priority countries like Nigeria to deepen and implement open government reform commitments.”
He urged the federal government to build understanding and trust by ensuring transparency, engagement with the citizenry and accountability.
His words: “The consequences of an opaque and unaccountable government are clear to see,” adding, “Secrecy enables corruption, injustice, and negligence to go unchecked.”
His United States counterpart, Stuart Symington adding his voice said, OGP is not just an open partnership, “this is about democratic freedom. The idea is that every citizen is a leader.”
To reap the fruits of openness, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami urged government agencies to rededicate themselves to fulfilling their part in the commitments set out in the NAP.
“It is now more than a year since we started implementation and there are still government agencies who have implemented the activities we committed to,” he said.
This year’s global open government action plan provides an opportunity to review what the government has been doing to ensure transparency, justice and accountability in public sector operations.