Kaduna, Ekiti, Anambra, and Akwa Ibom States have taken the lead in an open contracting assessment, with a research report showing some high-level transparency in the execution and procurement processes of their projects.
The assessment report followed a series of desk research and engagement of the state government officials, civil society organisations, and members of the media on how to explore a new forward-looking approach to fiscal transparency in open budgeting and contracting by Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC).
Though the assessment found some lapses that should be addressed by the states, the PPDC open state ranking and report obtained by LEADERSHIP showed that Kaduna State lead the chart as the first in Nigeria to sign the open government partnership in 2017, with commitments to five key areas of open budgeting, open contracting, access to information, citizens engagement and ease of doing business which help development partners, CSOs, NGOs and citizens to advance the cause of fiscal transparency and open data in the state.
The report noted: “Budgeting and contracting processes have improved because of the Open contracting policies in terms of inclusion and citizen engagement,” the report said, advising State actors and non-state actors to take responsibility for oversight and monitoring.
“The state government may also wish to domesticate the Freedom of Information (FOI) law to align with its open government principles without which fiscal transparency cannot be achieved. The relationship between the CSOs and the State Legislators is improving as they set a civil society desk office up”.
It was gathered that open data/budgeting and contracting are driven by political commitment in Ekiti State with political leaders, especially Governor Kayode Fayemi, coming from a civil society background.
Though the report showed that CSOs in Ekiti State have a weak institutional capacity to analyse and interrogate fiscal documents in ways that stimulate government engagement or action, the state has continued to keep its data open and engage citizens via the radio on contracting.
The report showed that Anambra State, known for entrepreneurship with the most industries and commercial operations in Nigeria’s South East, had a sound and transparent fiscal regime, which has been identified as a guide for efficient and effective allocation of public resources to government priorities, as well as strong support for the efficient delivery of services for poverty reduction and economic development.
The report suggested that implementing governmental institutions’ policies must be strengthened to ensure successful result in system-wide improvements.
It added that implementing fiscal transparency reforms based on enabling laws with the state maintaining a functional online platform where budget policies and associated documents are shared with the public in a timely manner helped in Anambra ranking.
The report further noted that many individuals, private sector companies, and civil society organisations are unaware of the presence of platforms that help in open contracting.
It said the open contracting portal will require more frequent updates and that the state should fully integrate e-procurement systems to improve the open contracting portal’s functionality.
The report noted: “Anambra State has a strong fiscal regime with institutions, regulations, and reform champions that can be used to increase efficiency. There is a considerable presence of informed and willing citizen groups that can assist in reform efforts.
“However, there is much opportunity for development in the state, particularly in terms of procurement and citizen participation in the entire process, both of which have been noted as areas where gaps exist”.
The report also said that the Akwa Ibom state government initiated governance reforms aimed at assisting and strengthening existing institutions to effectively allocate, execute, and account for public funds and enacted four laws namely the Fiscal Responsibility Law No. 13 of 2020, the Debt Management Law No. 8 of 2019, the Bureau of Public Procurement Law No. 7 of 2019, and the Revenue Administration Law No. 15 of 2020.
According to the report, laws in Akwa Ibom such as the Local Government Administration Law of 2017 and the Audit Law No. 3 of 2021, among others, were previously enacted to support fiscal transparency.
The report however noted that the state lacks a documented budget calendar or manual that clearly describes the budget process despite the existence of a citizens’ budget committee chaired by the commissioner for Economic Development and Deep Seaport and comprising civil society organisations (CSOs), women, youth, and other community groups.
“There is also a dedicated email address where citizens can send their budget inputs; however, budget inputs from citizens are rarely taken into account by the State Assembly, owing to the limited time available to review the budget. The budget document as well as the citizens’ budget are publicly available on the State’s official website and that of the budget office.
“Akwa Ibom State has a website for the Auditor-General’s Office where audited accounts are published and this has the latest audited account for the State. Worthy of note also is the fact that there is a dedicated website for procurement, however, this website contains very little information as it concerns procurement,” the report said.
It revealed that there are bureaucrats who are ready to drive the implementation of fiscal transparency but are often hampered by influences from the political class.
The chief executive officer (CEO) of Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC), Nkem Ilo, told LEADERSHIP that open contracting can help produce a more transparent and accountable government, as well as encourage synergy between the government and citizens of the nation.
She said the Open State Ranking is an initiative PPDC utilises to improve state fiscal transparency and hold the government accountable.