Budgetary reform for optimal-performance of next President
As we approach the May 2023 handover date, my expectation is for a President who will recognize that the root-problem of Governance in Nigeria is the persistent inability of our elected officials to account to the citizenry on the uses of our commonwealth to deliver services for improving the quality of our livelihood. This inability issues from the lack of an effective operation-control device for constantly and consistently checking-up on the administrative performance of our civil servants. The prevailing scenario is one of huge discretionary-authority and little operation-control wherein top-level civil servants wield vast decision-making powers that often conflicts with their self-interests while our elected officials lack a formidable instrument for the continuous and holistic monitoring and evaluation of the public service delivery effort. This breeds the ubiquitous public sector corruption and allied unethical tendencies that impede the optimal performance of our elected officials in public service delivery and disconnection of the Government f
rom the citizenry.
In the light of the foregoing, the next President of Nigeria must be that Candidate who recognizes that the Civil Service is not an integral-part of a Government but a support-institution that is functionally located in-between the Government and the citizenry. Further, he must understand that the Civil Service is characteristically structured into different sectoral fields of responsibility that are managed by human beings who pursue the task from their individual parochial and primordial points of view and interest. Therefore, the only way the Presidency can hit the ground running to achieve optimal performance is by initiating, from the onset, a Reform Agendathat would institutionalize effective coordination of the Civil Service through constant and consistent monitoring and evaluation of the public service delivery process for the aggregation and feedback of administrative-performance-information. This is a sine qua non.
Ideological Foundation of the Reform
From the foregoing exposition, it is, therefore, the lack of Public Accountability in our Governance that breeds incentives for emergence of the unethical tendencies that we readily blame for the underperformance of our elected officials in public service delivery, viz, corruption, fiscal-indiscipline, lack of statistical-data, and underutilization and wrong-deployment of specialist-workforce. The product is the condemnation of our citizenry to mass poverty seen in our perpetual search for the basic needs of livelihood, such as, food and water, healthcare, shelter, security, etc.
Our incoming President must recognize that this root-problem traces to the adherence of our elected officials to two relic paradigms that prescribe the separation of Planning from Budgeting and concentration of Governance on ‘Economy’ rather than ‘Society’. Thus, ‘Planning’ is “determination of ‘economic’ (rather than ‘social’) development-goals” while ‘Budgeting’ is “mobilization and deployment of funds for achieving ‘economic’ (rather than ‘social’) development goals”. The product of this ideological orientation is that our elected officials developed a restricted view of Budgeting as mere ‘fiscal policymaking’focused strictly on public financial management. In the process, they ignore the more fundamental institutional-resource-management-concerns of budgetary activity, which are inevitable for achieving the primary purpose of Governance, being improvement in the quality of social-livelihood.
Today, the forces of social interaction in the historical evolutionary process have merged Planning and Budgeting. Hence, ‘Planning’ is now “a deliberately-designed and applied process and time-dimension for carrying out a specified task” while ‘Budgeting’ is “the minimum-system of planning-operation”. Certainly, this is a depiction of ‘Budgeting’ as mere alias for “short-term-planning”. It is, therefore, imperative that the next President of Nigeria MUST recognize and adhere to this shift in paradigm if he sincerely intends to achieve optimal-performance in the delivery of services to Nigerians.
Essential Elements of the Reform
With the above recognition and adherence to the evolutionary convergence of Planning and Budgeting,‘Budgeting’MUST, thenceforth, serve as “the short-term-perspective of the strategic-planning-machinery with which the Government nurtures the effort of improving the quality of our social-livelihood”. Herein, ‘strategic-planning’ simply means, “the process of translating intention into action”.
From this ideological foundation will thus emerge the essence of Budgeting in our Governance as the need for coordination of all Government activitiesto link public-resource-inputs to administrative-performance-outcomes. The task will thus unfold through routines for aggregating decision-making-information for elected officials who often lack the time and energy to sift through all the information provided. Likewise, the procedure will evolve through an institutional-framework for integrating the activities of all Civil Service Agencies into a coherent field of administration that is controlled from a single power center.
This way, the essential elements of Budgeting in our Governance would become:
Objective-Setting’ (for aligning Government-Vision with the social aspirations of our Citizenry to eliminate tunnel-vision from the Governance); ‘Program-Implementation’ (for determining and deploying the resources for efficient and effective actualization of the thus-aligned Government-Vision); and Operation-Control’ (for binding civil servants to the Government Mission).
This conceptual framework runs contrary to the existing scenario wherein the essential elements of Budgeting in our Governance are ‘Revenue-Mobilization’, ‘Expenditure-Allocation’ ‘Borrowing’, and ‘Lending’. It expands the function of the budgeting agency beyond mere “allocation of funds to expenditure items” to embrace the monitoring and evaluation of the entire public service delivery process. From therein will emerge a new definition of Budgeting in Nigeria as “the effective deployment of institutional-resources for successful accomplishment of Government Mission”.
Activity Process of the Reform
It is on the crest of the operation-control apparatus of the new budgeting framework that our incoming President will ride to achieve effective monitoring and evaluation of the Civil Service and connection of the Government to the Citizenry. The activity process thrives on an institutional structure that originates from power-centers in the Aso Rock Villa and National Assembly, and spreads out to embrace all the sectoral fields of Civil Service responsibility down the hierarchy to the field-level of Agency interface with the Citizenry.
Herein, “sectoral fields of Civil Service responsibility” includes but not limited to social production (agriculture, industrialization and commerce), education and ethical orientation, healthcare, infrastructure-development (Roadways, Railways, Waterways, Airways, Electricity, Telecommunication), national security (internal and defense), justice administration, environment, tourism, sports, equal opportunity and gender affairs, foreign relations, financial management. This way, all budgetary objectives will be conceived and realized through a single but far-flung public service delivery process.
The activity process calls for the establishment of a new approach to Governance through the total overhaul of the existing institutional structure to usher in a new public service delivery process that is founded on the rule of good governance. Herein, “rule of good governance” simply means “constant and consistent coordination, aggregation and feedback of administrative-performance-information for guiding continuous and holistic decision-making-interaction between elected officials and civil servants regarding problems and successes encountered throughout the public service delivery arena”. From herein will issue a new public service delivery process that is founded on a deliberately-designed and properly-applied operation-control-device, and
properly-tamed and effectively-deployed Civil Service.
To be continued tomorrow
Ejikonye Ph.D, is a specialist in Public Budgeting (Abuja).