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Oronsaye report: Why cutting governance cost remains elusive since 2012

By Bridget Chiedu Onochie (Abuja Bureau Chief) and Azimazi Momoh Jimoh (Deputy Bureau Chief, Abuja)
28 August 2022   |   4:09 am
Cutting Nigeria’s huge cost of governance in the face of dwindling economic fortunes may remain a mirage or at best, mere platitudes, going by feelers from the seat of power in Abuja...

Former Head of Service of Federation, Stephen Oronsaye PHOTO: Ladidi Lucy Elukpo<br />

Lack Of Synergy Between NASS, Executive Undermines Its Implementation
• Legislature Creates Over 200 Additional Agencies, Commissions 
• FG Indecisive, Insincere — Lawmaker
• Non-implementation Of Report Impedes Governance Cost — SGF

Cutting Nigeria’s huge cost of governance in the face of dwindling economic fortunes may remain a mirage or at best, mere platitudes, going by feelers from the seat of power in Abuja and its corridors across the country.

For some time now, there have been sustained campaigns for cost-cutting measures in governance across the board by concerned Nigerians, comprised mostly of economists, financial analysts, stakeholders and public sector commentators.

Following unsuccessful attempts by successive administrations to reduce the number of federal government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) as a cost-cutting measure, former President Goodluck Jonathan, 2011, set up the Presidential Committee on Restructuring and Rationalisation of Federal Government Parastatals, Commissions and Agencies, under the chairmanship of Steve Oronsaye.

The Oronsaye committee submitted an 800-page report on April 16, 2012, which recommended the abolition and merger of 102 government agencies and parastatals, while some were listed to be self-funding.

The committee revealed a high level of competition among several overlapping agencies, which had not only created ill feelings among government agencies but also brought about unnecessary wastage in government expenditure.

The committee also recommended, among other things, the discontinuation of government funding of professional bodies and councils. The measures were, primarily, free funds for the much-needed capital projects across the country.

Oronsaye’s report was greeted with mixed feelings as the sack was imminent, but many felt that in spite of the implications on agencies and individuals that might be affected by the exercise (if implemented), the civil service would be strengthened and made more productive.
Following the submission of the White Paper on the report in March 2014, an Implementation Committee was set up two months later. Eight years down the lane, the government, rather than reduce, harmonise or merge some agencies as recommended in the report, has gone ahead to establish more agencies.

Ten years on, there has been a lull in the actions toward implementing the recommendations of the report. 

Some commentators have identified a key impediment to the report’s implementation as being that most of the affected agencies were creations of legislation. They said the enabling laws have to be repealed before the agencies cease to exist.

However, and sadly so, the actions and, in some instances, inactions of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration and members of the National Assembly do not indicate any commitment to reducing unnecessary government spending or even implementing recommendations of the report. Rather, what has been happening over the last 10 years has been the issuance of directives and the setting up of new committees to draft a white paper or to review the report entirely.

Specifically, among a number of back-and-forth movements without motion made by the government since 2012, there had been the setting up of the Bukar Aji Committee to review the Mohammed Adoke White Paper on the Steve Oronsaye Report. There had been the Amal Pepple Committee to review new Parastatals, Agencies and Commissions (PAC) created between 2012 to October 2021; just as there had been the Ebele Okeke Committee to draft a White Paper on the Amal Pepple Committee Report on new Parastatals, Agencies and Commissions created between 2012 and 2021.

Findings by The Guardian revealed that in total disregard for the recommendations contained in the report of the Oronsaye Committee, no fewer than 250 additional agencies, commissions and parastatals have been created through new legislative bills in the National Assembly. 

Some of the legislative bills for the creation of these agencies have either been passed and assented to by the President or have reached very advanced stages in legislative processing, raising questions on the commitment of the FG to implementing the Oronsaye report.

The National Assembly has, however, been found to be culpable too in increasing the overall cost of governance. Checks revealed that between 2015 and 2019, some 213 out of the total number of 311 bills introduced to the 8th Senate were bills that sought the creation of more federal agencies and commissions! However, only 80 of those bills received Presidential assent. Duplication of functions of existing agencies was also key among the reasons the President vetoed 53 National Assembly bills between 2017 and 2019. 

More revealing is that out of the 742 legislative bills introduced to the two chambers of the National Assembly between June 2019 and June 2021, over 262 are establishment bills, that is, bills seeking the establishment of one agency or the other. Besides, some of the bills were introduced to seek legal recognition for already existing federal agencies. 

The legislative bills, many of which have been passed and assented to by the President include the National Commission for the Coordination and Control of the Proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons (Establishment), 2022; the Nigerian Peace Corps Bill; North Central Development Commission (Est., etc) Bill 2019; Electoral Offences Commission (Est., etc) Bill, 2019; North West Development Commission (Est., etc) Bill, 2019; National Sports Commission (Est., etc) Bill, 2019; and Social Intervention Programmes Agency (Est., etc) Bill, 2019.

Also included are the National Food Reserve Agency (Est., etc) Bill, 2019; Police Academy (Est., etc) Bill, 2019; North Central Development Commission (Est., etc) Bill, 2019; and South West Development Commission (Est., etc) Bill, 2019.

Others are the South East Development Commission (Est., etc) Bill, 2019; Fiscal Responsibility Commission (Est., etc) Bill, 2019; National Road Fund (Est., etc) Bill, 2019; National Assembly Budget and Research Office (Est., etc) Bill, 2019; National Commission for the Eradication Of Child Destitution (Est., etc) Bill, 2019; Dormant Account Funds Management (Est., etc) Bill, 2019; and Constituency Development Fund (Est., etc) Bill, 2019.

The bills, which seek to establish one new agency or institution, constitute a large percentage of total bills sponsored in any particular Assembly.

Meanwhile, it has been revealed that the lack of synergy between the National Assembly and the executive arm of government is a key factor in the delay in implementing the Oronsaye report.

While the president blames the National Assembly for ignoring the Oronsaye report and continues to churn out legislations that create more agencies, the parliament says it has not received any communication from the executive arm with respect to any serious action on the Oronsaye report. 

A principal officer in the National Assembly faulted the criticisms against the legislature on the delay in the report’s implementation. 

“For instance, the Presidency knows that to effect meaningful changes and reduce the number of agencies and commissions, there is the need for serious legislative actions particularly to repeal the laws that created existing agencies. Has the executive arm sent any communication to the National Assembly in this regard? The answer is no! So why blame the National Assembly? It may interest you to note that some of the legislative Bills for the creation of more agencies and commissions are executive bills.

Among the most important recommendations contained in the report include the merger of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) as one agency; abolition of the Fiscal Responsibility Commission (FRC) and the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission (NSIWC) both of which functions will be subsumed under the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC).

Also, the Oronsaye committee recommended that laws backing educational agencies like National Examination Council (NECO) and National Business and Technical Board (NABTEB) be repealed to give the West African Examination Council (WAEC) the functions of both.

In broadcasting, the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), Voice of Nigeria and Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) will be consolidated under the Federal Broadcasting Corporation of Nigeria (FBCN).

Just last week, a new White Paper Drafting Committee on the Review of new Parastatals, Agencies and Commissions (PACs) which was created following the Oronsaye Panel Report proposed an engagement and dialogue with the National Assembly to generate an understanding to streamline the creation of new agencies and commission.

Chairman of the committee, Mrs Ebele Okeke, a former Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, made the suggestion when the committee presented the Draft White Paper on the review of new parastatals, agencies and commissions to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha.

The committee made almost similar observations as the Oronsaye report. According to Okeke, the Act establishing some of the agencies was rather ambiguous in structure, management and oversight. It faulted the indiscriminate use of Agency, Commission and board inter-changeably.

It also noted that most of the agencies that were created, especially under the Ministries of Education and Health, were through bills that emanated from the National Assembly.

She said that her committee also discovered that the legal framework and enabling Act of some of the PACs were ambiguous on their structure, management and oversight as most of the laws used agency, commission and board inter-changeably.  

Mustapha while receiving the Okeke Committee report admitted the creation of new agencies will further heighten government spending.  

He noted that the inability of the federal government to implement Oronsaye’s report has serious implications for the cost of running the government.