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Home Office, Foreign Office And MoJ Worst For Openness

Home Office

Home Office, Foreign Office and MoJ worst for openness, finds report

The Home Office, the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Justice have been named as the worst-performing government departments for transparency by a leading thinktank.

A report by the Institute for Government (IFG) has analysed information that is supposed to be regularly released across Whitehall showing the people ministers, civil servants and special advisers meet, and the gifts and hospitality they receive.

Launched in the wake of the Greensill affair, when key meetings between ministers and lobbyists were not registered, researchers discovered that:

  • The Home Office published the required data on senior officials’ meetings in just three of 23 quarters between the 2015 election and March 2021.
  • The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, which was created in September 2020, did not publish any information on meetings held by ministers or officials until September 2021.
  • The Ministry of Justice is by far the least reliable department on ministerial releases, often publishing data late, and failing to publish any information on five occasions.
  • The MoJ is also the least reliable department on special adviser data, failing to publish on six occasions.
  • The disclosures follow a difficult year for Whitehall transparency when campaigners and watchdogs such as the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) have demanded reform.

It emerged that former prime minister David Cameron was employed by Lex Greensill’s firm and then lobbied government ministers and senior civil servants for access to a Covid loan scheme.

The extent of the lobbying efforts, which included Cameron contacting the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, on his private mobile phone, was initially revealed by media reports rather than official records.

It also follows an outcry over former health secretary Matt Hancock’s relationship with his friend Gina Coladangelo, whom he appointed as a non-executive director to his department.

The IfG report, entitled Government Transparency: Departmental Releases: Ministers and Officials, analyses selected government information published between July 2015 and March 2021.

Measuring reliability, quality, and accessibility, the transparency tests set by Theresa May as prime minister, the report found that departments vary in the speed at which they publish data and the level of detail they share.

Even when information is published, it is not always useful, the report said. The Treasury described the purpose of five meetings held by its permanent secretary between July and September 2018 as simply “meeting”.

The descriptions of special advisers’ meetings are particularly low on detail, the IfG found.

Between July and September 2018, special advisers at the Cabinet Office had 16 meetings with media representatives. Eight were described as “lunch” and another was described as “breakfast”.

The lead author of the report, Tim Durrant, said the Greensill and Coladangelo scandals reminded the public that ministers need to disclose who they meet and what they are discussing.

“Despite calls for departments to publish more information about ministerial meetings, our research shows that departments are not consistently publishing information they have currently committed to share,” he said.

After the collapse of Greensill bank and the subsequent lobbying scandal, the government appointed the corporate lawyer Nigel Boardman to review lobbying rules. His appointment proved controversial because he was a former Conservative party candidate with close links to the government.

The Boardman report found that there was insufficient clarity about government process, mildly criticised Cameron, and exonerated current ministers.

Reacting to the IfG report, a government spokesperson said transparency measures had increased through the introduction of open publications including quarterly ministerial and official data on external meetings, gifts, hospitality, overseas travel and contracts.

“We will carefully consider the recommendations of the recent Boardman review in this area, along with the ongoing work of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, and we will respond in due course,” the spokesperson said.

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2023: NBC Tasks Broadcasters On Professionalism

The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has tasked broadcasters to handle political campaigns with professionalism.

The director-general of NBC, Balarabe Ilelah said this on Monday at a multi-stakeholders dialogue held in Abuja.

As campaigns for the 2023 elections are set to begin on September 28, Ilelah asked broadcasters to ensure not to allow hate speech or fake news on their platforms.

“This is in addition to ensuring equity in airtime allocation and coverage of political parties’ activities, particularly during prime times,” he said.

“It is also the time for you to make money from political adverts and campaigns, but ensure that this is done within the ambit of law.

“Broadcasters are also required to handle live political rallies with care and due professionalism. This is in addition to studio-based live political interviews/broadcasts. Because of the sensitivities of such programmes, broadcasters are advised to install delay mechanisms.

“Remember that broadcast stations are held responsible for any breach. The stations shall, therefore, assume and accept editorial responsibility”, he added.

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IPOB Accuses Police Of Blackmail

The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) has reacted to a statement credited to the Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba, linking ESN and IPOB to a planned attack on political campaigns and the forthcoming 2023 elections.

Director of Media and Public Relations of the group, Comrade Emma Powerful, in a statement on Monday, said the IG of Police should “leave IPOB volunteers and ESN Operatives alone to focus on things that matter instead of trying to get them involved in Nigeria Government and its fraudulent political processes.”

He also added that Nigeria’s security agencies were fond of blackmailing the organization with allegations of sundry crimes.

The statement read: “If Nigeria Police have concluded their plans to commit crimes during political campaigns and tag it on IPOB and ESN they will fail as usual.

“Any time Nigeria Security Agencies raise a false alarm, know that they have planned attacks to blackmail IPOB and ESN Operatives but we cannot allow them to continue their business of blackmail.

“These Security agencies have allegedly killed innocent people in an effort to blackmail IPOB but Chukwu Okike Abiama (God) has always vindicated us,” they said.

“We have always maintained that we are not interested in anything that has to do with Nigeria let alone taking any side in their fraudulent political process. IPOB are not Zoo politicians. The only political process that IPOB will participate in is an UN-supervised Biafra Referendum that will usher in Biafra Sovereignty and Independence”, he added.

 

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ASUU: F.G Makes U-turn, Withdraws Circular Ordering Resumption

The Federal Government on Monday withdrew its earlier circular which directed vice chancellors, pro-chancellors and governing councils to re-open federal universities.

This is coming hours after the government, through the National Universities Commission (NUC), directed the opening of varsities in compliance with National Industrial Court order.

A circular tagged NUC/ES/138/Vol.64/135 was addressed to all vice chancellors, pro-chancellors and chairmen of governing councils of federal universities ordering them to re-open universities.

Hours after, in another circular tagged NUC/ES/138/Vol.64/136, which was also signed by the Director, Finance and Account of the NUC, Sam Onazi, the commission withdrew the order.

The letter tagged, “withdrawal of circular NUC/ES/138/Vol.64/135 dated September 23, 2022” partly read, “I have been directed to withdraw the NUC Circular Ref: NUC/ES/138/Vol.64/135, and dated September 23, 2022 on the above subject.

“Consequently, the said circular stands withdrawn. All pro-chancellors and chairmen of governing councils, as well as vice-chancellors of federal universities are to please note. Further development and information would be communicated to all relevant stakeholders.

“Please accept the assurances of the Executive Secretary’s warmest regards.”

The university teachers began a one-month warning strike on February 14, 2022, and extended it thrice after the Federal Government failed to meet up with its demands.

 

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