A Basketful of Accomplishments on the CASARN Project

by David Ugolor

ANEEJ has been implementing the CASARN project since December 2019 and it is expected to end in April 2021. This discussion is to highlight the successes recorded with the project and showcase areas that civil society organisations and journalists can follow up to sustain the fight against corruption, strengthen rule of law and the protection of human rights in Nigeria. The project was implemented as part of the Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (ROLAC) Programme which is funded by the European Union and implemented by the British Council in Nigeria.

The project recognized that corruption is a major issue in Nigeria. The current administration has equally taken steps to tackle the challenge and to advance the rule of law. ANEEJ thus, designed the CASARN project to support government effort in this regard.  The goal of the CASARN project is to enhance governance in Nigeria by contributing to the fight against corruption, strengthen rule of law and the protection of human rights by reinforcing prevention mechanisms and enhancing civil society and public engagement. The project is expected to lead to improved oversight, transparency and accountability in the management of resources, and,  enhanced civil society public engagement and participation in the fight against corruption in Nigeria.

We are glad to inform you that the project has largely achieved the purpose for which it was designed and has thrown up emerging issues that will require follow up actions by civil society organizations and the media.

In line with the goal and objectives of the project, ANEEJ has implemented a number of activities and has been involved in series of initiatives to advance governance and anti-corruption in Edo State and in Nigeria at large. ANEEJ has trained CSOs and journalists on several issues including Open Government Partnership (OGP) and its commitments, open contracting, public procurement observation and contract monitoring in Edo State, FOI issues and advocacy, budgeting and budget/project monitoring.

The training on procurement and subsequent engagement with Edo State Public Procurement Agency has exposed CSOs to the reforms going on within the agency and how they can participate to monitor contracts and projects through the use of open contracting portal and the monitor-me portal. A number of CSOs have now been registered to observe public procurement process across Ministries, Departments and Agencies in Edo State through the implementation of the project, and more applications from CSOs are still been considered for registration by the procurement agency.

ANEEJ has also worked with other stakeholders to develop an Integrity and Accountability Strategy for Edo State which has been validated by stakeholders. An implementation structure and implementation plan has equally been developed which reflects CSOs participation. To facilitate civil society organisation’s involvement in the implementation of the strategy, a CSO monitoring and evaluation framework has been designed. This will support an independent monitoring of the implementation of the framework. It is expected that when this strategy has been finally approved by the Edo State government, it will contribute significantly to anti-corruption drive and improve CSOs participation in the fight against corruption.

Through the implementation of the CASARN project, ANEEJ has evolved an innovative compliance ranking of federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies on the Nigeria Open Contracting Portal (NOCOPO). This ranking is the first of its kind in Nigeria and has been acknowledged by the OGP national secretariat, open contracting partnership international, Bureau of Public Procurement, development partners and other key stakeholders. The purpose of the ranking is to encourage MDAs to comply with the use of NOCOPO by publishing procurement data for public access and use, thereby improving transparency and accountability in the procurement process.

ANEEJ and other project partners also had fruitful engagement with government agencies including Edo State Public Procurement Agency, Bureau of Public Procurement, Federal Ministry of Justice and the Asset Recovery and Management Unit, Edo State Ministry of Budget and Economic Planning, Edo State Ministry of Justice and several other MDAs both in Edo State and at the national level.

During the last post-election OGP stakeholders meeting, ANEEJ provided the platform for CSOs to interface with Edo State Ministry of Budget and Economic Planning and it was a good opportunity for stakeholders to mobilise ahead of the stakeholders’ consultation on the 2021 budget, the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP). Beyond the CASARN project ANEEJ will continue to be a rallying point for CSOs working on budget issues.

ANEEJ through the RoLAC programme was part of the process that led to the development of a draft Freedom of Information Bill for Edo State and mobilized CSOs and media to review the bill.

The CASARN project has opened up opportunities for CSOs to advance their work in a number of areas. Some of these areas include: research and publication around key governance and anti-corruption issues, procurement observation and reporting using open contracting portal and following up on bid openings by MDAs, budget monitoring using the Edo monitor-me portal, advocacy for the passage of freedom of information law in Edo State, monitoring the implementation of Edo State Integrity and Accountability Strategy, participation in the budget process. Opportunity is also there for CSOs to continue with the ranking of MDAs on the Nigeria Open Contracting portal. The list is endless. I encourage CSOs to consolidate on the gains of this project and sustain these issues.

We equally encourage Edo State government to quickly take the draft Edo State FOI Bill forward by presenting it to the  Edo State House of Assembly as an executive bill. In no distant time, we are confident that the Edo State FOI bill will become law in the State.

All of the successes recorded were possible with the cooperation of our project partners – FOI Counsel Nigeria, Justice Development and Peace Commission (JDPC), Benin, Conference of NGOs, Edo State and the New Apostolic Church Centre for Development, Benin City. We will continue to work together with these organisations and others to advance the common good of the society.

I want to specially appreciate the ROLAC programme team led by the National Programme Manager, Mr. Danladi Plang, the component managers and the Benin office team whose cooperation during the implementation of the project was wonderful. The funding from European Union through the British Council was useful in the delivery of key project targets for which we are grateful. We assure you that even as the project is coming to an end, ANEEJ work on the issues will be sustained.

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