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Freedom of Information Ranking improves disclosure practices of Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TET Fund)

In recent years, Nigeria has prioritized human capital development and one way to improve the human capital index is through adequate infrastructural provisions, social welfare, and alike. The Nigerian government has supported this effort through an increase in the education budget in addition to donor support to tertiary and basic education sectors in Nigeria. Among other interventions, the Federal Government of Nigeria set up the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND).

The Tertiary Education Trust Fund was originally established as Education Trust Fund (ETF) by Act No 7 of 1993 as amended by Act No 40 of 1998 (now repealed and replaced with Tertiary Education Trust Fund Act 2011). It is an intervention agency set up to provide supplementary support to all levels of public tertiary institutions with the main objective of using funding alongside project management for the rehabilitation, restoration, and consolidation of Tertiary Education in Nigeria. The main source of income available to the Fund is the two percent education tax paid from the assessable profit of companies registered in Nigeria. The Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS) assesses collects the tax on behalf of the Fund.

The funds are disbursed for the general improvement of education in federal and state tertiary educations specifically for the provision or maintenance of Essential physical infrastructure for teaching and learning; Institutional material and equipment; Research and publications; Academic staff training and development and; Any other need which, in the opinion of the Board of Trustees, is critical and essential for the improvement and maintenance of standards in the higher educational institutions.

Despite the huge sums within its proposal and the need to be accountable to the Nigerian populace on the expending of these resources, the TETFUND had retrogressed in its disclosure practices. Such was seen in the annual Freedom of Information (FOI) ranking the Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC) conducted showing that in the last two years, the institution had not been compliant with the Access to Information (ATI) law. More so, the Basic Right Watch (BRW), a CSO with a focus on benchmarking and improving the utilization of education funds (tertiary) also highlighted this decline in their analysis and in 2018/2019 partnered with the PPDC to find approaches to improve disclosure practices of the Fund.

The Freedom of Information (FOI) ranking is an annual report undertaken by PPDC to show the compliance of public institutions with the Freedom of Information Act, 2011. The program started with 15 institutions in 2013, rising to 67 in 2014. In 2019, 191 institutions were ranked. Among those ranked was the Tertiary Education Trust Fund.  Figures alone indicate that more and more Nigerian organizations are complying with or trying to comply. The parameters for the ranking are; Proactive disclosure, Responsiveness in the request for information, Level of disclosure, and FOI training.

Furthermore, the ranking is not limited to ensuring accountability and transparency in public sector institutions by ensuring that MDA publishes data and people have timely and unlimited access to public information, but also enhancing disclosure practices that have a positive impact on how public resources are handled and used. The success of the FOI Ranking program has given rise to the National Freedom of Information Ranking and a total of 203 public institutions, inclusive of the security sector.

To ensure adequate step is taken to this regard, in 2019 PPDC relying on its FOI analysis report commenced advocacy and intensive follow up with the institution under the Strengthening disclosure and citizen participation to improve value for money in public contracting in Africa implemented in partnership with AFIC with support from the Hewlett and Flora Foundation. This included physical visits, radio programs that shed light on the poor performance of the institution, as well as drawing public interest in understanding how the institution judiciously expand tertiary education funds, the matching services being delivered, and the processes are undertaken.

In mid-2019, the institution for the first time in years provided full disclosure of all requested information on capital warrants, a list of 2018 projects, and its 2019 procurement plan. The provided data was analyzed and published by the PPDC on the Budeshi platform for public use. This improved their position on the ranking and subsequently improved their compliance and data publication on the NOCOPO platform making them one of the most responsible MDA publishing their procurement data on the portal.

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