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Allocate resources for FOI implementation-MRA urged FG

By Suru Charles

A call for the Federal Government to demonstrate commitment to transparent and accountable governance by ensuring that all Federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) are provided with resources in the 2023 National Budget, has been made by the Media Rights Agenda (MRA).

The call, if adhered to, the organisation said will ensure effective implementation of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.

In a statement made available to The Trumpet by its Programme Officer, Maimuna Momoh, the organisation said its analysis of the 2023 Federal Government budget proposals showed that out of over 500 Federal public institutions, only nine entities made specific allocations for freedom of information implementation in their proposals, indicating that the FOI Act.

The situation as stated in the release “is likely to experience another year of dismal performance in implementation by government agencies.”

According to her, among the nine public institutions that made budget proposals for FOI implementation, the allocations being proposed are so outrageously low that it is doubtful whether they can actually achieve any meaningful result with some of such agencies allocating as little as 0.002 per cent of their proposed 2023 budgets to FOI implementation.

She said: “When you consider the range of duties and obligations that all public institutions have under the FOI Act, including sensitising and training their staff, proactively publishing certain categories of information, among others, the clear implication of this situation, she said, ” is that most Federal public institutions have no plan or intention to comply with or implement the Act.”

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While lauding the Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR) for its consistent impressive level of compliance with and implementation of the FOI Act, she noted that “In percentage terms, the BPSR led the pack by far with its proposal to spend 2.004 per cent of its budget on FOI implementation.”

She was also observed to have identified other public institutions with budgetary proposals for FOI implementation as the Federal Ministry of Work and Housing, which is proposing to spend 0.003 percent of its total budget for the implementation of the Act for its housing and works sections.

Others like the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) which according to her is proposing to spend 0.135 percent of its total budget on the establishment and maintenance of an FOI Unit; and the Ministry of Defence, which plans to spend 0.029 of its budget on freedom of information implementation.

While the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, is proposing to spend 0.119 percent of its budget on FOI implementation; the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget, and National Planning, as made known by her, planned to spend 0.008 percent of its budget on setting up systems to monitor and coordinate the operationalization of the FOI Act.

Noting that some public officials might argue that in the face of the limited resources available, it is better to spend money on concrete projects rather on something that appears to be an abstract issue, she insisted that the dreamers of ensuring effective representation of projects would be at risk and could easily be misappropriated.

She further urged the Federal Government to prescribe a minimum level of resources which every public institution should allocate to the implementation of the FOI Act in order to meet their duties and obligations under the Act and ensure that they are fully implementing the Law and complying with its provisions.

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