As part of its efforts to ensure value for money as far as public projects are concerned in Kaduna State, Legal Awareness for Nigeria Women (LANW) in partnership with Follow Taxes and support from MacArthur Foundation has trained the government’s procurement officers on open contracting data standards (OCDS) to improve productivity.
OCDS enables disclosure of data and documents at all stages of the contracting process by defining a common data model and government officials who suppose to publish these information must understand their responsibility because the State is committed to doing this in its open government partnership (OGP) agreement.
Currently, LANW is executing a MacArthur Foundation-supported Strengthening Accountability and Transparency in Public Sector (STATNES) project, which focused on basic education, primary health care and rural water supply in three Kaduna local government areas which are Kaura, Soba and Chikun where locals have been equipped with tracking tools.
Programme Officer, LANW, Michael Aboh, said the 2-day training for State and local government procurement officers holding in Zaria was designed to improve OCDS documentation thereby strengthen transparency and accountability in public expenditures in the State.
“The objective of the training is to identify practical challenges to compliance with OCDS and agree on ways to overcome public procurement procedures challenges for effective service delivery.
“It is also organised to learn how to upload required procurement data onto the OCDS portal to ensure access to up-to-date procurement information by citizens”, Aboh said.
According to him, some of the challenges impeding public projects monitoring in Kaduna include but not limited to insecurity, reluctant of certain government agencies to open or collaborate, bureaucratic bottleneck and delays in accessing vital information, changes of political appointees in positions and unwillingness of service providers to let out information on projects.
Taking the participants through OCDS and the role in service delivery as prescribed in the Kaduna OGP commitment, Team Lead, Follow Taxes, Kaduna Office, Saied Tafida PhD, emphasised the need for government officials to make information available to citizens in the interest of co-creation.
The OGP principles include transparency, accountability, citizens participation, technology innovation and monitoring and evaluation.
According to Tafida, Governments around the World spend an estimated US$9.5 trillion through contracts every year, yet contracting information is often unavailable for public scrutiny.
“The OGP is a multilateral initiative that aims to secure concrete commitments from national and subnational governments to promote open government, empower citizens, fight corruption and harness new technology to strengthen governance.
“The principle is simply citizens and government working together for transparency, accountability, citizens engagement and use of technology and OCDS is critical to improving the quality of service delivery.
Earlier in a remark, Director, Compliance and Capacity Building Kaduna State Public Procurement Authority (KADPPA), Arc Suleiman thanked the civil society organisations especially, LANW and Follo Taxes for supporting the state government in its good governance drive.
The procurement expert, who described corruption as a “huge challenge in the country”, stressed that public officers must work with citizens to reduce the incidence of corruption in service delivery adding that, contractors find ways to abuse contract agreement because the contracts processes were not transparent enough.
“This is what the Kaduna State Government in partnership with NGOs and development partners is trying to address by making all contracting information public for citizens to engage the process.
“Until citizens engage in the process and provide feedback to the government, contractors will continue to cut corners in project execution,” he warned.
He said that the government was making efforts to ensure that all contracts awarded in the state complied with the OCDS, hence, the MDAs were required to fill the OCDS template about the project, cost, budget amount, rational and needs assessment, location, procurement category, and procurement method used.
“They will equally provide the name of contractor, address of contractor, phone number, e-mail, project photographs and project funding”
However, participants appealed to the State Government through KADPPA to ensure their continuous training and retraining with regards to OCDS technicalities whenever there is a software upgrade for optimum productivity.