The Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), has concluded plans to launch a citizen engagement portal that will feed interested persons with updates on government-approved projects.

A representative of the agency disclosed this at a two-day media dialogue with the Open Government Partnership (OGP) coalition; held in Lagos.

“Since the development of the 1st National Action Plan we have been working with Civil Society Organisations and a couple of people from the media as well, to co-create Nigerian Open Contracting Portal (NOCOPO) and it is going to be hosted on nocopo.bpp.gov.ng,”, he said while adding that the site will go live during the OGP week which begins on the 7th of May.

During a questioning session, he stated that each government project has a unique identifier that can be used for tracking the contracts.

“Every project that is awarded by the government has a unique identifier and it carries that identity throughout the lifespan of the project; it is tied to its location. When a project is awarded, the location is logged. So, it can be tracked,” he said

The OGP alliance is a partnership between government ministries, departments, and agencies (MDA’s), working in collaboration with civil societies on specific commitments.

The commitments were chosen based on four themes of the country’s OGP National Action Plan (NAP). These themes are; fiscal transparency- public finance, anticorruption, access to information and citizens engagement.

Besides BPP, several other MDA’s gave overviews of the activities carried out in league with civil society partners to fulfill the demands of their assigned commitment.

A representative of the Federal Ministry of Justice (FMOJ) said the federal government is working to separate law enforcement from asset management.

According to her, Nigeria’s key challenge; is what happens to recovered properties.

She said, “We don’t have a legislature that deals with the management of assets and that’s why you keep hearing ‘looting the re-looted asset.’”

She added that in order to solve the problem, the Proceeds of Crime bill was sent to the National Assembly and on the 17th of May 2017, the bill passed second reading in the upper chamber.

It has however not been submitted to the presidency for assent.

The FMOJ representative said the bill provides for the creation of an Asset Management Agency that will be able to manage recovered assets.

Similarly, the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) also detailed the commission’s efforts at unmasking ‘beneficial owners,’ at the forum.

According to the representative of the Commission, it is easier to use companies to move funds around the world than the account of a single individual.

The CAC representative said, “It is easier to use a company to move funds across the world. You can hide under the guise of one transaction or the other; unlike an individual.”

He further explained that individuals use their lawyers or other third parties to hide their identity as major shareholders in companies.

Consequently, he said, global attention has shifted from just knowing the shareholder, to knowing who the actual beneficiary of the proceeds from the company is.

The Company and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) 1990, had no provisions for such disclosures. He, however, revealed that an amendment of CAMA has been sent to the legislature:

“We have proposed an amendment to the existing Company and Allied Matters Act that will provide mandatory disclosure.

“We have criminalized the incident of non-disclosure. If somebody refuses to disclose to the company, he is liable and upon conviction will go to jail for six months and a fine. If a company refuses to disclose the information given to it by the CAC, there will be a daily default penalty of N5,000 for the period the default lasts. While the amendment bill awaits passage into law, CAC and civil society partners, have drafted a regulation that will aid the implementation of the disclosure requirements. Key to the success of the OGP is the Freedom of Information Act (FOI).

On its part, the National Orientation Agency (NOA) said it has produced the FOI document in 20 languages. NOA and Center LSD, have engaged nine states, 159 local governments, and 477 communities.

Also, the Ministry of Budget and National Planning disclosed the existence of a citizen’s portal on its website. The portal has an ‘I Monitor feature’ that allows the ministry extend its public engagement requirements to a larger audience.

Nigeria’s NAP was approved in February 2017 and is expected to run till 2019.  Each of the four themes in the plan has a varying number of commitments.

Fiscal Transparency has the following commitments; Ensure more effective citizens participation across the entire budget cycle, Full implementation of Open Contracting and adoption of Open Contracting Data Standards in the public sector, Work together with all stakeholders to enhance transparency in the extractive sectors through a concrete set of disclosures related to payments by companies and payments by governments on all transactions across the sector's value chain, Adopt common reporting standards and the Addis Tax initiative aimed at improving the fairness, transparency, efficiency and effectiveness of the tax system, Improve the ease of doing business and Nigeria's ranking on the World Bank Doing Business index.

Anti-Corruption has the following commitments; Establish a Public register of Beneficial Owners of Companies, Establish a platform for sharing information among Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs), Anti-Corruption Agencies (ACAs), National Security Adviser (NSA) and financial sector regulators to detect, prevent and disrupt at corrupt practices, Strengthen Nigeria’s asset recovery legislation including non-conviction based confiscation powers and the introduction of unexplained wealth orders, Take appropriate actions to co-ordinate anti-corruption activities; improve integrity and transparency and accountability.

Access to Information has these commitments; Improved compliance of public institutions with the Freedom of information Act in respect of the annual reporting obligations by public institutions and level of responses to requests, Improved compliance of public institutions with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) with respect to the Proactive disclosure provisions and stipulating mandatory publication requirements,Citizen Engagement is measured by these commitments; Develop a Permanent Dialogue Mechanism on transparency.

Accountability and good governance between citizens and government to facilitate a culture of Openness, Government-civil society to jointly review existing legislations on transparency and a accountability issues and make recommendations to the National Assembly, Adopt a technology-based citizens feedback on projects and programs across transparency and accountability.

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