• Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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Managing the size of Nigeria’s MDAs


 Over the years, there have been debates over the propriety or otherwise of the size of Nigeria’s ministries, departments and agencies. Some past administrations have had to carry out some half-hearted exercise aimed at scaling down the number.

A number of committees have been raised and much money spent in the jamborees. Sadly, all the efforts have not been able to yield the desired result.

Since 1999, there have been much cries against the increasing cost of governance. In last few years rather than reducing the number of ministries, new ones have been created which perform almost same functions as the existing ones.

One major reason there have been loud sighs over the increasing number of ministries and agencies is the fact that most of them have become largely ineffective over the years. At best, many of the ministries and agencies have become conduit pipes through which public office holders siphon the common wealth.

The Kenyan example

In some climes, emphasis is now on scaling down ministries and other avenues through which government loses money. Recently, the newly sworn-in Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta, unveiled the structure of his government with reduced ministries from 44 to 18. The reduced structure, it was gathered, is geared toward achieving “a lean, efficient and effective branch of government.”

A statement released by Kenyatta’s government said: “In exercise of the authority vested in him by the constitution of Kenya 2010, and in conformity with the expectations of a lean and effective structure, President Kenyatta officially released the list of ministries and state departments that will form the National Executive”.

Danger of multiplying agencies, others

The nation’s civil service is over-bloated, yet dysfunctional. Its contribution to the nation building is in doubt with the level of corruption on the rise. Ordinarily, government should not appoint members of committee from outside the civil service to look into certain issues, but because of confidence loss and ethnic-related politics, government is always in the habit of forming committees and wasting money. Appointments into boards of agencies and parastatals are usually political. For instance, in the last few months, politicians have continued to agitate for board appointments. This is because the executives (President and governors) use such appointments to make statements, especially during election period.

Nigerians have since lost count of the number of existing ministries, agencies and parastatals in the country. In a country where ethnicity is pronounced, government ensures that it satisfies every geo-political zone during appointments. For this reason, where two or three persons ordinarily should be picked to look at issue and make recommendations to government, over ten people are appointed to sit on panels, attracting huge expenses and unnecessarily dragging the submission of reports. The most unfortunate aspect of it all is that such reports and their recommendations are hardly touched or implemented by the government that set up the panel in the first place.

Oronsaye’s lamentation

Recently, Stephen Oronsaye, chairman, Presidential Committee on Reform of Government Agencies, submitted an 800-page report of the panel to the President. The report, among other things, recommended the reduction of statutory agencies of government from 263 to 161, abolition of 38 agencies, merger of 52 and reversal of 14 to departments in ministries.

Oronsaye-led panel noted that the average cost of governance in Nigeria is believed to rank among the highest in the world.

“For example, there are 541 government parastatals, commissions and agencies (statutory and non-statutory). The committee believes that the cost of governance must be brought down, then both the legislature and judiciary must make spirited efforts at reducing their running costs as well as restructuring and rationalising the agencies under them, since the three arms make up the government,” Oronsaye said.

Oronsaye, who was former head of Civil Service of the Federation, noted that decisions taken by past government committees on restructuring and rationalisation of government agencies had not been implemented.

“Mr. President, indeed, 12 years after the White Paper on the Ahmed Joda Panel Report on the Review, Harmonisation and Rationalisation of Federal Government Parastatals, Institutions and Agencies (2000), some parastatals and agencies, which government had decided should either be scrapped, commercialised, privatised or self-funding, are still receiving government funding, which runs into billions of naira”, Oronsaye said.

It was also noted that the Allison Ayida Report (1995) referred to the administrative guidelines regulating the relationship between parastatals and government-owned companies and the government had also recommended that ministers should not function as chairman of government-owned agencies.

Similarly, the Ahmed Joda Committee (1999) posited that the challenge of ministerial interferences and bureaucratic control needed to be eliminated in order to restore the effectiveness and efficiency of parastatals in the delivery service to the public.

“The Joda Report alluded to the challenge of lack of managerial competence in some of the parastatals as well as the incompetence of some boards. The report also noted the challenge posed by the large size of the boards of the parastatals, most of which had over ten members. Today, the story remains the same”, Oronsaye noted.

Beyond panels

The federal government must go beyond setting multiple panels to implementing the recommendations of such committees. The tradition of sweeping panels’ reports under the carpet does not do the country any good; instead, it bleeds the nation’s purse, and accentuates the problem of misforgovernance.

Pronouncements on scrapping or merging of agencies should not be a verbal exercise which, ab initio, is not intended to be implemented.

Policy somersault

On the crest the Oronsaye recommendations, the federal government, had announced the abolition of the university matriculation examination organised by the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) and scrapping of National Examinations Council (NECO). But the pronouncement was dead on arrival. A few days later, government announced that the implementations were not in the immediate. Recently also, government announced the birth of Internet surveillance agency and pipeline monitoring agency, two agencies when it is talking about downsizing. This is a case of saying something and doing the opposite. It is not healthy for the country.