• Monday, July 15, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

KPMG’s appointment of Yemi Kale shows there can be life after government

KMPG’s appointment of Yemi Kale shows there can be life after government

There was a time that public service, like much of Nigeria’s history, once had a reputation for excellence and quality in service delivery. However, the public service in Nigeria has for several decades become synonymous with mediocrity.

Excellence is grossly lacking in most public institutions and the workforce is one that is reputed for its nonchalance and lack of diligence to duty.

It is not unusual to hear bureaucratic bottlenecks that hamper one development, policy or another, blamed on the inefficiencies of civil service workers and/or other bureaucrats. They are after all, the unseen hands that get to actually implement the tasks of governance.

For many in the civil service, it would appear that apart from hard-to-find individual quest for excellence, they also lack ambition and do not see any meaningful life outside of ‘government work’ as it is called.

It is therefore not a surprise that many are said to accumulate all they can while in service, in order to retire into obscurity, as they nimble on their share of crumbs from the national cake.

It may not have been overwhelmingly perfect, but the NBS under Kale was not run in the typical mediocre Nigerian style

Similar arguments can be made for political office holders and political appointees, including heads of agencies and parastatals.

There are only few in recent history that have distinguished themselves enough to be remembered positively and for doing their work creditably.

Yemi Kale, former statistician general and head of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) of Nigeria from 2011 to 2021, is one of those who have stood out in recent times.

Kale assumed office in 2011 and was reappointed in 2016 making him the first chief executive in the agency’s history to serve two terms as statistician general.

After completing a tenure that has by many accounts been remarkable, he has now found his way back to the private sector with a role in one of the leading professional firms in the country.

Under his tenure, the GDP of Nigeria was recalculated, and following that exercise, it emerged that Nigeria was Africa’s largest economy by GDP. More importantly, periodic publication of economic data from inflation to unemployment, taxes, revenues, and several surveys became a norm.

There was for the first time in a long while, at least one element of government that much of Nigeria and the international community could trust when it came to data and its reports; the NBS. There were known timetables for when key data and reports were to be published, many of which followed the timelines.

It may not have been overwhelmingly perfect, but the NBS under Kale was not run in the typical mediocre Nigerian style. It was one that multilateral agencies were willing to collaborate with to generate data and produce reports that offered astonishing insights into the Nigerian economy.

Read also: Nigeria needs to rethink its global competitive strategy – Kale

The NBS, under his watch, earned accolades from both Nigerian and foreign observers for his reforms in the data gathering process, which was seen to bring confidence in the final outputs.

The introduction and use of technology also greatly improved the agency’s efficiency, setting trends and standards that would outlive Kale himself, unless NBS would somehow in the future decide to self-sabotage.

He was also said to on occasions, refused to tamper with data, while rejecting attempts to politicise data. This is no mean feat, considering that under him, Nigeria was twice declared to have slid into recession.

Unemployment, poverty and many other indices shown in NBS reports were hardly flattering of the government and it could have been expected that someone in his capacity would ‘cooperate’ with the powers that be.

In February 2017, Kale was awarded the National Productivity Order of Merit for outstanding performance, professionalism and diligence by President Muhammad Buhari.

In 2021, after 10 years of excellent service, he completed his second tenure at the NBS and recently, KPMG Nigeria announced he had been appointed as a partner and chief economist.

Kale would not be living out the rest of his years in obscurity like most people who exit the public service. This, we believe, should send a message to the thousands of Nigerians employed in the public workforce that excellence pays.

Settling for mediocrity is not only a disservice to the nation while they are employed, but also to themselves, when they are out of office as only their deeds in office will open new doors for them.