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Confusion trails merger of ministries, agencies


 Babatunde Fashola

Babatunde Fashola

• Lack of offices, duplication of functions mar exercise
. Govt agency says reforms necessary for efficiency
Owing to an alleged lack of adequate planning, the recent merger of Federal Government ministries, departments and agencies is now facing some challenges.

An investigation by The Guardian shows that overstaffing, lack of clear-cut policy direction, accommodation issues and duplication of functions are among the challenges facing the merger. Many of the directors and other senior staff of the ministries lack office accommodation and schedule of work.

But the Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR) does not share this position, insisting, according to its head, Dr. Joe Abah, that the mergers will at the end of the day lead to more functional agencies that will be able to deliver on the current administration’s promise to Nigerians.

The merged ministries include those of Power, Works and Housing, Information and Culture, National Planning and Budget, Interior, as well as Youths and Sports. The main purpose of the merger was to cut waste and increase efficiency in governance for better service delivery, but all that is being hampered by the confusion in the system.

The Guardian learnt that while some ministries are overstaffed, others are under-staffed, just as some civil servants have no portfolio. Due to some of these reasons, including a lack of office space, overlapping functions and a lack of adequate supervision, many staff now resume late to work, if they come at all on some days. More worrisome is the fact that there is a brazen lack of clear-cut direction on the part of the various leaderships of the merged ministries.

An insider told The Guardian: “To me, the committee that recommended the merger of these ministries misled our President Muhammadu Buhari. How can anyone or group of persons advise the President to merge the Ministry of Power with those of Works and Housing? This is practically wrong because these are critical ministries that have a direct bearing on our people, more so, they ought to be manned by professionals and technocrats in relation to their schedules.’’

In the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, it was learnt that the Minister, Babatunde Fashola, has only embarked on 20 per cent travels across the states of the federation for road inspection. ‘’You can see, unlike in the past, the Minister of Works would have, by now, gone around all the geo-political zones of the country to see for himself some of the roads that need government attention and as soon as that is done, he will come and articulate such projects that will form government’s blueprint in preparing the following year’s budget for roads. Also now that the rains are here with us, there is no doubt that no serious work could be done in the road sector until the rains are over again. This is not good for us as a nation.”

Others lamented what they described as appointment of non-professionals to man ministries that require people with technical expertise.
The Chairman of the Civil Service Union in the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, Adesina Balogun, said: “The major problem facing the merged ministries today is the lack of funds to run them, more so that the federal budget is yet to be signed. In the past, work in this ministry went on smoothly, but now everything is at a standstill because of a lack of funds. The budget needs to be signed and money released to allow the ministries go out to do their jobs.’’

But the Director-General of the BPSR, Abah, applauded the merging of the ministries. He told The Guardian that the merger carried out by the administration was not new, noting that it is done from time to time by advanced countries.

Allaying the fear that the merger may lead to the sacking of workers, Abah said the exercise was not meant to cut staff strength but to make them more productive. “If you think about the situation before now, we had a Ministry of Police Affairs, a Police Service Commission and a Ministry of Interior, and every year government appropriated over-head costs for each of them, duplicating all sorts of functions which means the same government would not have enough money to spend on capital projects or equipping the security personnel and things like that. For that reason, this measure has come to make sure that this administration is more focused and things are streamlined.”

He stressed that the merger was aimed at ensuring that government delivers on its promises to the people. According to Abah, the committee set up to ensure the smooth merger is being led by the BPSR.

The committee under my leadership is made up of highly qualified organisational development experts from the BPSR and its partners from the Office of the Head of Service that have a specialised organisational development unit. There are also experts from the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.

“So, in each ministry, you have a team of five or six working with the ministerial reform committee set up by the ministry. Even the ministers are directly involved, while the ministerial reforms committees are chaired by the permanent secretaries with all directors being members. The functional review that we are doing is looking at how the departments work would be finished at the end of April, ready for submission to FEC.”

Abah said the committee was charged to look at the mandate of each ministry, look at the government’s priority with regard to the concerned ministry, look at their vision and mission and try to determine what it would achieve when the administration ends.

“That is what many people don’t want to address, so we are asking them the hard question: how would the world have changed by 2019 as a result of your ministry? And once we’ve done that, we shall look at how the departments are organised, what they are contributing to the government’s mandate and the nation. We look at staffing, how the staff are organised because you find that some ministries have more staff than they need while others have less,” Abah noted.

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