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Budgetary reform for optimal-performance of next President – Part 3

By Emeka Ejikonye
13 October 2022   |   3:13 am
The big puzzle is, how did he do this? Soon after their inauguration, during the early (honeymoon) period, when popularity and benefit-of-the-doubt were still high, the President

Buhari presents the 2023 Appropriation Bill to the National Assembly in the National Assembly, Abuja.

Continued from yesterday

The big puzzle is, how did he do this? Soon after their inauguration, during the early (honeymoon) period, when popularity and benefit-of-the-doubt were still high, the President and his vice, Al Gore, worked closely with Congress to initiate the National Performance Review (NPR), later renamed National Partnership for Reinventing Government (ReGo).

The program pursued many budgetary recommendations involving subtle changes in institutional coordination aimed at management pay-off later in the tenure.

ReGo was founded on the invigoration of the budgeting agency to secure the personal involvement of the President in directing the public service delivery effort, particularly, in setting objectives for the bureaucrats and taking stock of the uses and limitations of Government resources.

This led to the early establishment of Government priorities and the implementation strategies built on institutional changes for aligning the priorities with the interests and motivations of the citizenry.
This way, Bill Clinton asserted his control over the public service delivery arena. His priorities were not only reflected in developing the program-funding requests of Civil Service agencies, his participation and control were also balanced in the use of the funds in implementing the programs.

As a result, civil servants came to see him as a leader whose decisions symbolized their priorities through their involvement in the provision of information and analysis while the citizenry at large recognized him as the official in charge of both the purposes and resources of Governance.

Overall, ReGo was founded on an assessment of all the resources available to the Government including human capital, organizational structure, technology, operation control, finance, etc. This implies a recognition that, whether by design or default, Public Budgeting is synonymous with Governance; indeed, it is “Governance-in-practice”. The principal concern is with the fundamental need of society; that is, the optimal performance of the Government in public service delivery.

Implementation Plan of the Reform
From the comparative scenario, the ideal time to apply this budgetary reform is during the early, ‘honeymoon’, period of a Government tenure when popularity and benefit-of-the-doubt are still high. Thus, the establishment of the institutional structure will start immediately after the inauguration and must be founded on appropriate statutory and administrative actions for creating the enabling environment of legitimacy. Thence, the nurturing phase shall commence.

The rationale for this second phase resides in the need for routinization of the activation process of the newly established institutional structure to breed its smooth operation, proper-ingraining into the psyche of the civil servants and long-term sustainability.

Critical Success Factors
The capacity of our incoming Government to successively initiate this budgetary reform will depend on the requisite skill, strong will, steadfast resolve and sincerity of purpose of the President and leadership of the National Assembly to initiate a paradigm shift in the functioning of four policymaking concepts of Federal Governance in Nigeria, thus:

‘Planning’, from its existing view as, “determination of ‘economic’ (rather than ‘social’) development goals”, to become, “a deliberately designed and applied process and time dimension for actualizing Government Vision”.

‘Budgeting’, from its prevailing archaic view as, “mobilization and deployment of public funds for actualizing ‘economic’ (rather than ‘social’) development goals”, to its modern perception as, “effective deployment of institutional resources for the successful accomplishment of Government Mission”.

‘President’, from its existing feudal-monarchical sense as, “a ‘patron-saint’ who doles out favors and aids to others from an aloof position atop the Governance machinery while leaving these others to get the job done”, to its more democratic-republican perception as, “the only elected chief executive officer of Governance whose position derives from the need for an identifiable individual empowered to get the job done and take full responsibility for the successes and failures of administrative outcomes”.

‘National Assembly, from its disparaging view as, “a passive/reactive partner vis-à-vis the Executive such that the President exerts full discretionary authority in Government budgetary matters”, to its more esteem sense as, “an assertive/active partner vis-à-vis the Executive through the optimal capacity of the legislators to do their own budgeting”.
In the raging public debate on Restructuring in Nigeria, this budgetary reform initiative hinges on: (1) a clear-cut distinction between ‘Polity’ (the organizational structure and powers of Society) and ‘Governance’ (the organizational structure, powers and activity-process of Government for improving the quality of social-livelihood); (2) recognition that, when both are placed side-by-side on apriority-setting-scale, ‘Governance’ is more fundamental than ‘Polity’; and (3) more emphasis on“Restructuring of Governance” over “Restructuring of Polity”, given that “improvement in the quality of social-livelihood” is the primary purpose for the existence of Society. This budgetary reform initiative is a Blueprint for the restructuring of Governance in Nigeria!!!

Ejikonye PhD, is a specialist in Public Budgeting (Abuja).

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