BusinessDay

Anxiety among civil servants as Orosanye white paper c’ttee submits report

There is pervading fear among federal civil servants, as the Orosanye Rationalisation White Paper Committee is set to submit its report on the government on Thursday, August 25.

A female civil servant at the Federal Secretariat, Abuja, who spoke with BusinessDay, Wednesday, said she and her colleagues were not certain about the implications of the implementation of the white paper when submitted.

“Yes, we hear that the white paper on the Orosanya report will be submitted to the government this week: we don’t know what fate awaits anybody. But we really hope that the government won’t resort to sacking people in view of the current economic situation in the country,” said Justina.

The white paper committee was inaugurated in July by Boss Mustapha, secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), chaired by a former head of the federal civil service, Ebele Okeke. It has Ibukun Odusote (retired permanent secretary); Mustapha Suliaman (retired permanent secretary); Ernest Umakhihe, permanent secretary, ministry of agriculture and rural development, as members

Others include Mahmuda Mamman, permanent secretary, ministry of health; Hassan Musa, permanent secretary, ministry of information and culture; and Dasuki Arabi, director-general, Bureau of Public Service Reforms, who is the secretary of the committee

The committee which was given a six-week mandate to submit its report, BusinessDay gathered, will submit its final report on Thursday at the office of the SGF, Abuja.

President Muhammadu Buhari had at a recent event at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, affirmed that the report of the White Paper committee would be implemented.

This is coming on the heels of the current economic challenges, poor revenue, and huge recurrent budget.

For instance, the 2022 budget has a deficit of about N6.25tn, approximately 3.39 percent of GDP, which is slightly above the 3 percent ceiling set by the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007 (FRA).

The president has continued to insist that Nigeria has a revenue challenge, even as debt sustainability remains a huge problem for the administration. This is because the government has continued to finance the revenue deficit through new borrowings.

The non-debt recurrent expenditure of N6.83trn is said to be the largest expense item, with 60 percent relating to personnel costs at N4.11trn.

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Buhari, who stated that he has “directed that the Orosanye White Paper report be subjected to immediate review,” added that “this will enable the government take the most appropriate decision on its general recommendation,’’

“I am aware that the review is about to be completed. While some may complain about the length of time it has taken thus far, the outcome of the various review teams would lead to some fundamental changes in the structure of our civil service and as such, it must be subjected to rigorous review and scrutiny before presentation and implementation,’’

The president said that the secretary to the government of the federation will submit the harmonised white paper once it has been concluded.

He assured that the administration remains focused on strengthening the service and ensuring it helps the government fulfil its objectives.

President Buhari while stating that “the government understands the role of the civil service in policy formulation and implementation towards the provision of socio-economic and political benefits to our citizens”, added that “This administration remains focused on strengthening the service and ensuring it helps the government to fulfil its objectives. The civil service must not be seen as a dumping ground for job seekers, but must attract the best and the brightest who will contribute fresh ideas and a determination to solving our socio-economic problems,’’ the president added.

Mustapha, while inaugurating the committee, stated that “part of the Federal Government’s efforts was to address cost of governance which has become an issue of concern, especially with the current revenue challenges in the country.

The government had constituted a committee on the restructuring and rationalisation of Federal Government parastatals, commissions and agencies on August 18, 2011, chaired by the former head of service, Steve Oronsaye

The committee submitted its report on April 16, 2012, with various recommendations, such as an abolition, reduction, merger and reversion of some of the agencies to departments in ministries. Subsequently, the white paper on the report was issued in March of 2014, followed by an implementation committee that was inaugurated in May of 2014.

But the white paper that followed rejected most of the recommendations, which stalled the implementation

Mustapha, however, noted that the “inability to implement the report of the committee on restructuring and rationalisation of Federal Government parastatals, agencies and commissions was costing the government highly. This cost grows higher, and the situation is further worsened by the fact that new agencies are still being created.”

“In an effort to address this challenge, the Federal Government, in November 2021, integrated two committees. One of the committees was to review the Steve Oronsaye report and its white paper, chaired by Gonji Bukar Aji, a retired head of civil service of the federation. The second committee was constituted to review new agencies created from 2014 to date which was chaired by Ama Pepple, another former head of civil service of the federation.

“After the submission of the Ama Pepple chaired committee report, there is a need to constitute a white paper for the committee to consider its recommendation by the government, hence the inauguration today of this committee.

“I look forward to working with you on delivering this assignment. I noticed that we did not put a time limit, but I would ask that we probably have this report turned in as quickly as possible, within a period of six weeks. If you can do that, we would appreciate it, so that we will begin the process of the implementation of this report.”

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