Revisit and implement Oronsaye report – Punch Newspapers

AMID the ravages of disease and recession, a glimmer of light has appeared. The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), rekindled hope that the long-awaited downsizing of the unwieldy bureaucracy is imminent when he ordered the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and the Head of Service to implement the Oronsaye Report. This holds the tantalising prospect of reducing the number of Ministries, Departments and Agencies, saving costs and restoring long-lost efficiency to public administration in the country. He should proceed post-haste and with strong resolve.

Cutting the bureaucracy down to size has taken too long. But, apparently, the crash in oil prices and shrinking revenues induced by the COVID-19 pandemic are finally forcing the government’s reluctant hand. The Presidential Committee on Restructuring and Rationalisation of Federal Government Parastatals, Commissions and Agencies was empanelled by the Goodluck Jonathan administration in 2011 in response to excessive costs and duplicated/overlapping functions in multiple agencies. Though the government issued a White Paper in March 2014, neither the Jonathan administration nor the succeeding Buhari regime attempted to implement its recommendations before now.

Development experts have established that the best time for governments to implement hard, unpopular but necessary reforms are the first few months after an electoral victory or during severe crises. Twice, Buhari missed the opportunity after his two electoral victories. He should utilise the current economic and health crises to the fullest to slash the bureaucracy.

In its 800-page report, the seven-member committee headed by Stephen Oronsaye, a former HoS, identified 541 federal parastatals, recommending some for scrapping and merger of others — 102 agencies would have been erased. That the bureaucracy at the federal, state and local levels is oversized, lumbering and inefficient is incontestable. Corruption worsens the mix and contributes to making Nigeria the world’s headquarters of poverty and graft. BudgIT, a non-profit, calculated that the 400,000-strong federal civil service, a mere 0.21 per cent of the population, was earmarked to take 27 per cent of the initial 2020 N10.33 trillion budget plan. It said personnel costs estimates rose from N1.87 trillion in 2015 to N2.1 trillion in 2018 and N2.82 trillion in 2020. Nominal overhead costs also rose 85 per cent between 2016 and 2020.

Despite the acknowledgement that the MDAs were too many, more agencies have since been created, at a reckless pace, especially by the National Assembly. Details of the 2019 budget released by the Budget Office of the Federation indicated 606 MDAs in all, of which 602 combined, planned to spend N3 billion on “fuel, generators and plants.”

Whereas the UNDP says the civil service in countries “overwhelmed by political and administrative challenges” should be the chief provider of social protection and public goods, Nigeria’s hinders, instead of facilitating development, draining resources from critical social services and discouraging investment and job creation. In contrast, the storied Singapore public service has just over 60 statutory boards with a culture of innovation, high-tech deployment and perpetual transformation that has delivered per capita income of $63,987 (IMF) to its people.

To change the narrative, reduce costs and restore the capacity of the public service to drive development, Buhari needs to overcome ingrained inertia. Ladipo Adamolekun, the renowned professor of administration, characterised Nigeria as a “hesitant reformer,” unlike “advanced” and “committed” reformers like Botswana and Cameroun respectively. Buhari should be visionary.

His directive to the SGF and the HoS to implement the report, though well-intentioned, is not enough. As some observers have quickly pointed out, the government White Paper endorsed only about 10 per cent of the recommendations. Ninety per cent were either rejected or merely “noted.” Given the political costs that go with reforms, and to discourage periodical action, Buhari needs, therefore, to first review the report with a view to acting beyond what the Jonathan government decided six years ago. Current realities dictate more drastic downsizing of agencies and costs. Singapore has only 16 high-performing ministries, the United Kingdom fluctuates between 21 and 24 full cabinet-level posts.

A wider review panel, working in tandem with the economic managers and advisers, should urgently scrutinise the report. Where legally applicable, Buhari should use Executive Orders to shut down unnecessary agencies, especially those with no enabling laws, send bills to the National Assembly to abolish legal ones or merge them where necessary.

Priority should be given to streamlining processes that will improve the ease of doing business and facilitate foreign investment:  note that Japan and Malaysia’s ministries of international trade were identified as pivotal in their success in attracting FDI. Positioning the numerous research institutes to drive innovation is a priority requiring a harder look at the report whose recommendations were shot down in the White Paper.

Buhari should reject the counter-productive recommendation of closing the Federal Road Safety Commission and handing its functions over to the hopelessly corrupt Nigeria Police. He should never bend to the suggested mergers of the EFCC, ICPC and the Code of Conduct Bureau. The government is losing the war against corruption; so the country needs strengthened and better-funded agencies, not lumbering mega-agencies that cannot deliver.

Domestic propaganda outfits like the Nigerian Television Authority, for which the government is borrowing $500 million, and the National Orientation Agency are anomalous in a democracy and should be privatised or scrapped. The government should tidy up all outstanding staff issues, especially timely severance settlements after overcoming the inevitable push back from labour unions and vested interests.

Government should return to its core functions of providing social services and regulation, and leave commerce to the private sector by privatising all its commercial operations; reducing the number of political appointees, and making job creation the major goal of all economic policies.

Copyright PUNCH.
All rights reserved. This material, and other digital content on this website, may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from PUNCH.

Contact: [email protected]


Source link

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: