Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The best ways to reduce cost of governance

At last, the Mohammed Bello Adoke committee’s White Paper on the proposed mergers and acquisitions of federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies was made public on April 7, 2014. This was a clear two years after the inauguration of the committee on April 16, 2012 when the Steve Oronsaye’s Presidential Committee on Restructuring and Rationalisation of Federal Agencies, Commissions and Parastatals submitted its report to President Goodluck Jonathan. Oronsaye’s committee itself was set up on August 18, 2011 with a mandate to among others study and review all previous reports on similar exercise; examine the enabling Acts of all MDAs and classify them into various sectors; examine critically their mandates and make appropriate recommendations to either restructure, merge or scrap; and, advise on any other matters, which may be relevant to the desire of government to prune the cost of governance.
Oronsaye’s committee in its 800-page report proffered four ways to immediately tackle the high cost of governance. These include: “Reduction in the number and size of the governing boards of parastatals; linking the budgetary system to deliverables and output; implementation or vacation of some decisions taken on past reports; and removal of all professional bodies/councils from the national budget.” The committee established that as of the time of submitting its report in 2012, there were 541 government parastatals, commissions and agencies. Two hundred and sixty three of these were statutory agencies which it recommended reduced to 161. To achieve this, the committee proposed the abolition of 38 agencies, merger of 52 and reversion of 14 to departments in ministries. The rationale being that there were “duplications and overlaps in the mandates of many parastatals and agencies…without regard to existing laws and, in some cases, outright replicating extant laws.” In addition, the committee proposed that management audit should be conducted on 89 agencies with biometric data capture of staff.
In the committee’s opinion, if its report was adopted and agencies reduced in accordance with the recommendations, the government would be saving over N862bn between 2012 and 2015. The breakdown showed that about N124.8bn would be reduced from agencies proposed for abolition; about N100.6bn from agencies proposed for mergers; about N6.6bn from professional bodies; N489.9bn from universities;  N50.9bn from polytechnics; N32.3bn from colleges of education and N616m from boards of Federal Medical Centres.
Now, let us take a look at the content of the Adoke’s White Paper. In its 105-page report, the committee agreed to scrap the National Poverty Eradication Programme and the Fiscal Responsibility Commission. The government in the White Paper directed the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission to perform the functions of the FRC. The RMAFC’s enabling law, according to the White Paper, should be amended to accommodate the functions of the FRC and the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission whose duties are also to be transferred to the RMAFC.
It also accepted the recommendation to merge the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority and the Nigerian Meteorological Agency into a new body to be known as the Federal Civil Aviation Authority. Their respective enabling laws are to be amended accordingly. The government also endorsed some of the recommendations for the commercialisation and privatisation of some agencies such as the Nigerian Film Corporation, Nigerian Television Authority and Nigerian Postal Service. It approved the proposal to abolish the Utilities Charges Commission and accepted that the Veterinary Research Council of Nigeria should as a professional body be self-funding. Further budgetary allocation of the council is to cease forthwith. The Federal Government agreed to sell off part of its shares in the Nigerian Communications Satellite and retain a minority shares in it. Based on the recommendation of the Oronsaye committee, the functions of NIGCOMSAT relating to space development will be reverted to the National Space Development Agency.
It also accepted that the functions of the Nigerian Institute for Education Planners and Administrators be merged with those of the National Teachers Institute. The Federal Government also accepted that the National Council of Arts and Culture, the National Troupe and the National Theatre be merged into one agency called National Council of Arts and Culture. Government is also to stop funding the Nigerian Financial Reporting Council from 2015 while the Industrial Training Fund becomes self-funding from 2014. Though the Adoke’s White Paper Committee did not approve of the proposed name-change of the Federal Civil Service Commission to Federal Public Service Commission, it however accepted the recommendation of a single-term of five years for the chairman and members of the commission.
However, the committee report has been generating dust since it was released. While many of the heads of the MDAs who escaped the hammer of merger or acquisition have been commending the committee for a good job, those who are unlucky have been making last ditch efforts to save their agencies. My friend and The PUNCH columnist, Eze Onyekpere, wrote a two-part article (see The PUNCH, April 21 and 28, 2014) on why the Fiscal Responsibility Commission should not be scrapped. He articulated 14 grounds to buttress his position. The reasons sound convincing but is it not coming late in the day? I am also disappointed that the Adoke’s committee rejected Oronsaye’s recommendation for the Federal Government stoppage of funding of holy pilgrimages either to Mecca or Jerusalem.
I am happy though that President Goodluck Jonathan had on Wednesday, April 9, directed the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim, and the Head of Service of the Federation, Alhaji Boni Aji, to constitute a committee that would quickly implement the White Paper. Given the slow pace the entire process had taken since 2011, one is sceptical if the Adoke’s White Paper will be fully implemented before the next elections in February 2015. The reasons are very simple. Executive Bills are supposed to be sponsored for the amendment of the statutes setting up the merged and scrapped institutions. The bills may not be ready in the next three months while our National Assembly also has a penchant for dawdling on consideration of bills. In a couple of months from now, governance will give way to politics as preparation for the next elections takes the centre stage. Any bill not passed by the current National Assembly will have to be reintroduced afresh after the inauguration of the new assembly in June 2015. So, the actual implementation of the report of the Adoke’s Committee report may not see the light of the day ultimately.
Again, as I observed in my earlier commentary on the Oronsaye report (see Thisday on Sunday, April 22, 2012) it is not only through merger and acquisition of the MDAs that we can reduce the cost of governance. I opined then that,  “Additional ways the President should explore to condense the cost of governance is by halving the presidential fleet of aircraft and cars; reducing the number of presidential and legislative aides and auctioning the white elephants among the over 11,886 Federal Government projects that dot Nigeria’s landscape. It is also advisable for government to quit sponsorship of pilgrimages.
“During the forthcoming constitutional amendment exercise, the President should sponsor a bill to seek amendment to Section 147(3) of the 1999 Constitution which makes it mandatory for the President to appoint at least one minister from each state. Nigeria does not need more than 20 cabinet ministers unlike the current fad where an unwieldy 42 ministers are appointed by the President.  He should also look at reducing the number of Nigerian foreign missions while the National Assembly must exercise utmost circumspection in creating additional agencies or commissions.  Above all, he must strengthen all anti-corruption agencies inclusive of the police and the Code of Conduct Bureau. It is an unassailable fact that corruption plays a big role in Nigeria’s soaring cost of governance”. Need I say more?