A report on the ranking of public organisations, based on their responses to the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, has scored the Nigerian Export Promotion Council and the Consumer Protection Council of Nigeria high.
The ranking was done and presented to newsmen by the Chief Executive Officer, Public and Private Development Centre, (PPDC), Mrs Seember Nyager, on Monday in Abuja.
The FOI Act 2011 was passed into law to make public records and information easily accessible to interested citizens.
The 2014 ranking by PPDC had Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) and the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation in first position.
She said the release of the report was significant as Sept. 28 was International Right to Know Day.
Nyager said that the findings were based on a survey carried out by PPDC of 116 Federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) in the country.
She said that the purpose was not “to name and shame any organisation, but rather, to promote accountability and transparency in public institutions”.
Nyager said the parameters for the ranking were based on issues related to procurement process and contract implementation because of their effect on the public.
The activist said the MDAs were ranked based on pro-active disclosure of information; that is giving out information before being asked, level of responsiveness to request and level of disclosure.
Out of the 116 MDAs on the ranking, she said 71 were not complying at all with the FOI Act.
She said it was sad that certain agencies that should be promoting transparency were themselves not so forthcoming with information.
The report showed that Independent Corrupt Practices and Offences Commission, Securities and Exchange Commission, Police Service Commission and the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation were all at the bottom of the ranking.
Also, the Ministry of Information, News Agency of Nigeria, Nigeria Television Authority, National Broadcasting Commission were also at the bottom of the ranking.
The report showed that revenue generating agencies like the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and Nigeria Customs Service had zero compliance with the Act.
Nyager said some MDAs refused to provide information on their procurement process by hiding under section 15 of the Act.
The section states that a public institution can deny such requests if the information contains trade secrets or if the information can interfere with a contractual or negotiations of a third party.
Meanwhile, the Director-General, Bureau of Public Service Reforms, Mr Joe Abah, said that despite what civil society groups might think, Nigeria was doing well in terms of FOI compliance.
He said much still needed to be done to ensure compliance with FOI by government agencies.
“Civil society groups need to do due diligence first before sending request for information of any kind.
“It does not make sense for me to answer 800 times how much I am being paid when a simple trip to the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission will tell them all that and more.
“So it’s not like we do not want to answer but please if there is synergy among civil society groups, it will save us repeating ourselves over and over again,’’ he said.
Abah urged Civil Society Groups to utilise the information from the usage of the FOI Act and not just getting it for the sake.