• Report out-dated, dead –Head of Service
• We’re on cause –Finance Minister
• How lobbyists killed implementation under Jonathan
Daily Trust reports
The federal government is yet to commence the implementation of the report of the Presidential Committee on Restructuring and Rationalisation of Federal Government Parastatals, Commissions and Agencies, over 18 months after the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, announced a presidential directive to that effect.
The report, dubbed Oronsaye Report, after the name of the chairman of the committee, former Head of Service, Steve Oronsaye, was submitted to former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2012.
The committee was mandated to identify civil service inadequacies and recommend cost-cutting and efficiency measures.
Experts have for years lamented the heavy burden of recurrent expenditure on the government, with criticism that a significant percentage of the amount goes into funding personnel the government does not need.
For 2022, for example, the federal government proposed to spend N6.83trn on non-debt recurrent expenditure, with 60 per cent of the amount (N4.11trn) going into personnel cost.
The budget for non-debt recurrent expenditure in the 2022 is higher than the one for 2021 by N1.18trn. For 2021, N5.56trn was budgeted for the purpose.
At the end of its assignment, the Oronsaye Committee turned in an 800-page report. It recommended MDAs that should be scraped, those to be merged and those to become self-funding.
In addition, the committee recommended that the federal government should discontinue funding of professional bodies and councils. The seven-member committee recommended that the government focus on empowering the MDAs “to do more for less.” It, therefore, recommended the abolishment and merging of 102 government agencies and parastatals.
The Jonathan administration constituted a White Paper Drafting Committee composed of top government officials and headed by the then Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN).
An implementation committee, headed by the then Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim, was subsequently constituted by President Jonathan.
But a senior official of the Jonathan government told Daily Trust at the weekend that “lobbyists and political considerations” subverted implementation of the report.
The source said by the time the White Paper Committee was done with its report, the “lobbyists were all over the president and he could no longer summon the courage to implement the report”.
‘Resurrection’ of the Oronsaye report
In a television interview in April last year, Mrs Ahmed said President Muhammadu Buhari had directed the implementation of the report as part of the government’s reforms and cost-saving measures.
“It has reviewed the whole of the size of government and has made very significant recommendations in terms of reducing the number of agencies and that would mean merging some agencies,” the minister said of the report at the time.
“This is a report that has been in place for a long time and there hasn’t been implementation but the president has approved that this should be implemented and we have conveyed Mr. President’s approval to the arms of government that are responsible for this and that will be the office of the Secretary to the Government and the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation.”
Months before Mrs Ahmed’s pronouncement on the presidential directive, the then Director-General of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR), Dasuki Arabi, President Buhari has directed the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to deliberate on the Oronsaye report to guide its public service reform.
In an interview in September 2019, Arabi said the BPSR was awaiting the approval of the federal government for the full implementation of the report.
“The president has given his nod for the secretariat on implementation of Oronsaye white paper report to move ahead with that and I am confident that it is going to be done anytime soon,” he had said.
Arabi signaled that to give full effect to the report the National Assembly would have to be involved “Because most of the agencies to be scrapped or merged have enabling laws. So, they must look at those laws and repeal them before we have the new agencies”.
Earlier in the administration, Director-General of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms, BPSR, Dr Joe Abah, in March 2016, announced reconstitution of the implementation committee on the Oronsaye report.
“The BPSR has carried out a comprehensive review of both the Oronsaye report and the government white paper and provided its advice to the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
Checks by Daily Trust, however, indicate that no significant step is yet taken towards the actual implementation of the recommendations.
SGF passes bucks
Contacted on Thursday, Willie Bassey, Director of Press in the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, declined comment insisting that the reporter should contact the finance minister who revealed the presidential directive, in the first place.
We’re on course – Finance minister
Contacted, the spokesman for the minister of finance, Yunusa Abdullahi, said the implementation was on course.
“Committees have been set up and are working towards presenting a report,” he said.
Abdullahi said when the committees are done with the assignment, the report will be submitted to the government for approval.
Report outdated, dead – Head of Service
While the finance minister said work was on to implement the report, the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Dr Folasade Yemi-Esan said the report could not be implemented now as it has become dated.
Director of Press and Public Relations in the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Abdulganiyu Aminu referred Daily Trust to Dr Yemi-Esan’s position on the issue during a media parley earlier this year, emphasising that “she said emphatically that the report is dead”.
As part of activities for the 2021 Nigeria Civil Service Week in June, the Head of Service told journalists that the report had become obsolete but added that two committees had been set up for one to look at the report and another to look at what happened since submission of the Oronsaye Report.
“I have met with the SGF several times on the way forward with the Oronsaye Report. Most of our conversations were on the fact that Oronsaye Report is now outdated because the report took place about 8 or 10 years ago.
“Even the agencies and parastatals that were meant to be rationalised, we have even had more created, even after Oronsaye Report. So what we have decided on recently is that the SGF will inaugurate two committees. One committee to look at Oronsaye Report and another committee to look at what has happened after the Oronsaye Report so that we can harmonise the work of these two committees and give recommendations.”
It is unclear if any committee has been constituted as the SGF’s spokesperson declined to give any details, while the spokesperson of head of service said he was unsure of the situation.