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Repositioning public service to reduce cost of governance



A NOTABLE academic in public administration, Professor Tunji Olaopa, in his “Tenure policy restoration in the federal service: matters arising”, The Nation, February 6, 2022, made a strategic input to dynamics of public service in Nigeria ostensibly to tackle a very sensitive issue which will drastically reduce the cost of governance. He recounted thusly: “On the 18th of August, 2011, the committee on the restructuring and rationalisation of federal government parastatals, commissions, and agencies was put in place by the federal government, and headed by the former Head of Service of the Federation, Mr. Stephen Oronsaye. The burden that led to the constitution of the committee is the enormous cost of governance that drains the precious scarce resources of running government business and achieving infrastructural development and efficient service delivery for Nigerians”.

  Reducing the ever ballooning cost of governance will go a long way to release funds for strategic infrastructural facilities to raise the standard of living of the populace who are being strangled to death by the woeful lack of basic infrastructural facilities and amenities at all the level of government. Good enough, strategic steps have been taken to give leeway for developmental dynamics of the public service sector when President Muhammadu Buhari gave directive for the implementation of Stephen Oronsaye’s Report on rationalisation of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). The strategic step commenced in 2014 during President Goodluck Jonathan administration. However, the White Paper could not be implemented due to exigencies of presidential election.

  During the military government and transition to civilian government in 1999, there was feverish establishment of MDAs without taken into consideration the long-term administrative and funding implications. In other words, there were superfluous offices leading to duplications and overlap of government responsibilities especially at the federal level to assuage sectional cum ethno-religious pressures and parochial interests.

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  As time progressed, it was observed that inefficiency, ineffectiveness and lack of productivity reared their ugly heads even as it became glaring that recurrent expenditures in the fiscal years could not be adequate for the monthly emoluments and subventions of many MDAs leading to industrial unrest.

  Consequently, a lofty reform of governance dynamics became a categorical imperative reinvent the service hence the empanelling of the Oronsaye commission and the subsequent report and pragmatic recommendations. The inevitability for the implementation of the report comes handy as the economy is losing grips of effective management due to lack of meaningful development planning and the fallouts of the quasi federal arrangements bequeathed by the military imposed 1999 Constitution which constrained the federating political units from exploring and exploiting the vast natural and mineral resources lying untapped.

  To compound the economic and administrative problems, the national government party, APC has been playing politics over its election campaign promise to restructure governance to jumpstart the ailing economy and to reinvent the country’s federalism agreed upon by the founding fathers of the federation. Consequently, the country has been neck-deep in binge foreign loans, even as it sets aside over five per cent of the revenues to servicing the ever mounting internal and external loans.

  A professor of public administration, Tunji Olaopa in his “Oronsaye Report: implementation and cost of governance challenge” cautioned the federal government against floppy implementation of the report. He contended thus: “We cannot underestimate the significance of the Oronsaye Report to the recuperation of Nigeria’s productivity dynamics. And it is getting this productivity matrix right that opens the gate for increased infrastructural development that will fundamentally transform the well-being of Nigeria.

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  “First, we all will concede that the report is concerned, and rightly too, with efficiency savings at the macro-institutional level (though outside of the administrative dynamics of the core ministries and their relevance to the success of the productivity battle). This it did by focusing on eliminating redundant and duplicated agencies’ functions through consolidation and/or merger…to check many years of administrative inefficiency…jumpstarting the rapid economic growth…to facilitate developmental dynamics.

 In the final analysis, the Oronsaye Committee report is at best a first level palliative solution to the deep-rooted cost of governance crises that bedevils Nigeria…the Oronsaye Report is limited to targeting overhead cost and payroll saving to facilitate a no-job-loss-palliative”, adding that “…the Oronsaye Report is a solid and perspicacious first step on the way to an efficient unraveling of the cost of governance predicament Nigeria has been battling with since independence and the bravery of Buhari administration should be acknowledged for deciding to go through with this first step in cleansing the Augean stable of an inefficient government business mechanism that has consistently failed to meet up with Nigeria’s productivity challenge”.

  No matter the overwhelming benefits of implementing the lofty reform, if there is no restructuring of governance to reinvent the principles of federalism, it becomes a barren exercise. Noting the overriding importance of the seamless implementation of the report, Olaopa continued: “The grand objective of the federal government is to achieve a productivity paradigm shift that is founded on transforming the business model of government business dynamics through a modernising reform project that essentially undermines wastages, redundancies and leakages. This requires a massive shakeup of the bureaucratic model of the MDAs in such a way that demands a productivity audit that will sharpen the focus of ministries and other governmental structures on the achievement of key governmental goals and priorities”.

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  The reform had triggered smoldering discontent among the organised labour fearing that job losses inevitably goes with such fundamental changes in the structure of the public bureaucracy.

  Discountenancing the fears the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, had described the boisterous stance of the organised labour as needless, saying that the Buhari administration is conscious of the prevailing privations in the public sector employees as the reform would not lead to job losses. He said: “First and foremost, we are not using the Orosanya’s report hook, line and sinker”.

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