More Citizens Are Engaging Government On Public Contracting Through Dedicated Radio Platforms
Open contracting has become popular in Ekiti State, Southwest Nigeria, allowing for more government accountability through radio programs.
In Ekiti State, Southwest Nigeria, citizens now keep track of the government’s procurement processes through two radio programmes: Budeshi Radio, and Public Procurement on Radio.
More citizens are aware of what open contracting means and what having a transparent procurement process means for them as individuals. This is because of Budeshi, an Hausa word for ‘Open It,’ adopted to reflect open contracting.
Budeshi Radio, which ran from 2020 to April 2021 on Fresh FM, Ado-Ekiti, the state capital, “took procurement issues to the citizens in the comfort of their homes,” says Lawrence Richi, the presenter of the programme.
According to him, the radio programme was intended to stimulate conversation between local communities and the government on procurement, providing real-time information on government procurements, their status, and findings by contract monitors.
Budeshi Radio, a brainchild of the Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC), is an aftermath of an MOU with the State Government on Open Contracting Data Standards (OCDS).
Civil Society Organisations and government agencies have roles in open contracting and procurement processes which many citizens were not aware of just as the citizens too did not know they were supposed to be part of the procurement process. Richie says the radio programme helped to highlight the roles of all key stakeholders.
“It is to let the people know the roles of the civil society, government agencies and create awareness of projects in all stages,” he said.
Monitors of projects, mainly members of the civil society, featured on the weekly radio programme to give feedback on “their findings, what they saw, what are the lapses, are their government agencies complying with the open contracting processes?”
One of the benefits of the programme which has a phone-in segment for members of the public to make contributions is also the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act segment.
“Ekiti State seems to be the only state that has domesticated the Act in the country, so we talked about how the use of FOI enhances the open contracting process in the state,” Richie adds.
A great feedback mechanism- public procurement on radio
During the programme, citizens make phone calls to comment and also ask questions regarding projects in their domains. “It shows that people are listening and also that they know about the process.”
The radio presenter believes that citizens are informed about the processes through the radio programme and also the need to be involved. “Part of the process is to create awareness and consciousness in the minds of the people so that they are aware. That’s the first foundation that the programme aimed to lay,” Richie stressed.
There is a major need for such a programme to continue currently, he added.
It was this realisation that birthed another radio programme- public procurement on the radio – an initiative of Ekiti State Bureau of Public Procurement aired on the state FM radio station, Ayoba FM 95.1 every Wednesday.
As with Budeshi radio, the public procurement on radio focuses on procurement processes in Ekiti State. It talks about the monitoring role of the Bureau, monitors claims by vendors and contractors, gives updates on stages of awarded contracts, and gives members of the society an opportunity to be part of the procurement by asking questions and making enquiries during the programme.
“Public Procurement on Radio ensures value for money on behalf of the people of Ekiti State,” says the state’s Bureau of Public Procurement on its official Facebook page.
“The programme, every week, talks about ongoing projects, completed ones, their stages of completion and location.”
Members of the public who follow the live streaming of the programme on social media platforms such as Facebook are able to drop comments and questions. To take the message to audiences across all strata, it is aired in English language and Yoruba. It has so far discussed issues such as Vendor Registration and Process discussed by Ayodeji Odusote of the Bureau, Roles of BPP in the Disposal of Public Asset discussed by Egghead Adewale among others.
The birth of procurement radio
PPDC is a citizen sector organisation focusing on open contracting through procurement and contract monitoring activities in Nigeria and is currently promoting the Open Contracting Data Standards (OCDS). The OCDS makes it easy for citizens, including those in civil society organisations, to monitor the award of contracts and their implementation.
Before mid-2019, the procurement landscape in the state was not as open as it is currently. But after an earlier advocacy visit by a team from the Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC) to the Ekiti State Bureau for Public Procurement as the year was nearing its second half, PPDC signed the MOU with the state government on the uptake and implementation of open contracting to improve their procurement outcomes, the state committed to adopting open contracting.
The open procurement portal was birthed and strengthened by the PPDC’s partnership with the Ekiti State Government, said Richie, who was part of the process as a member of the civil society.
Richie disclosed that it was during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown that he and his team had an engagement with the management of the State Bureau of Public Procurement on the need to have a feedback mechanism where citizens can engage them. “One of the platforms suggested was a town hall meeting or a radio platform.”
Months later, citizens say one of the greatest achievements of open contracting in Ekiti State has been the creation of a radio programme that focuses on procurement processes.
“Citizens who were never part of governance for decades, and ignored by the ruling elites can now ask questions about and make inputs in the award of contracts,” the state’s Bureau of Public Procurement writes on its official Facebook page.
“They can now articulate their needs and make real choices about their future.”
Yekeen Akinwale is the Head of Newsroom at HumAngle Media, Abuja
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