Igbuzor: Governance cost and public administration reform
COST of governance has been a challenge to governments all over the world. It is one of the issues that necessitate Public Administration reform in over one hundred and twelve countries across the world, being supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Cost of governance is the money spent on administrative processes of running government. Technically, it is divided into two: recurrent administrative expenses and capital administrative expenses. In the last three decades, recurrent expenditure has been increasing astronomically in Nigeria. By the end of the 1970s, recurrent expenditure was about 43 per cent. At the end of the second republic, it had risen to about 49 per cent. Today, it is over 70 per cent. This is clearly unsustainable. No country can develop with that level of recurrent expenditure.
There are several reasons why the cost of governance is increasing in Nigeria. The first is corruption. There is hardly any ministry, department or agency that will conduct staff audit and not discover “ghost workers.” Many of the recurrent expenditures in the public service are avenue for corruptly enriching a few people. The second reason is inefficiency, waste and duplication. In many cases, the right personnel are not recruited and deployed on the right job at the right time. This affects delivery of services, efficiency and effectiveness. Many of the agencies have areas of overlap and duplication of functions. Finally, many of the institutions and agencies are over-bloated. The numbers of staff, departments, units and committees are just too many. A comparison of the legislature in Nigeria and the United States of America amply demonstrates this. The National Assembly in Nigeria with 109-member Senate has 54 committees; and the 360-member House of Representatives has 84 committees. In contrast, the Senate in the U.S. with 100 members and the House of Representatives with 435 members has 21 committees each with four joint committees.
It must be recognized that growth in the bureaucracy is a global problem in Public Administration. It is governed by what scholars refer to as Parkinson’s law characterized by multiplication of offices (officials multiply subordinates) and multiplication of work (officials make work for each other). In Nigeria for instance, most of the agencies today started as task forces or committees and gradually became units and graduated into departments or full-fledged agencies or commissions. They will normally start with headquarters and in a few years establish zonal offices and then state offices with full-blown bureaucracy.
As far back as 1955, the United Kingdom established the Royal Commission on the Civil Service to, among other things, check the cost of governance. On August 18, 2011, the Federal Government of Nigeria established the Oronsaye committee on restructuring of federal agencies, parastatals and commissions with special focus on areas of overlap or duplication of functions with a view to making appropriate recommendations to either restructure, merge or scrap. The committee submitted its report on April 16, 2012. The committee recommended the abolition of 38 agencies, merger of 52 and reversion of 14 agencies to departments of relevant ministries. The committee estimated that government would save over N862 billion between 2012 and 2015 if the recommendations of the committee are implemented. We are already in 2015 and the recommendations are yet to be implemented.
It was only in March, 2014 that the Federal Government issued the white paper on the Oronsaye committee report. The Federal Government accepted most of the recommendations of the committee including the recommendation that no agency should opt out of the contributory pension except the military; withdrawal of the bill to establish NEPAD as an agency; abolition of the Utilities Cares Commission; commercialization of the National Agricultural Insurance Corporation, partial commercialization of NIPOST; sale of Federal Government shares in NigComSat; merger of Nigerian Institute for Education Partners with the National Teachers Institute; closure of the offices of the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies outside Lagos and Abuja; merger of the National Council of Arts and Culture with the National Troupe and the National Theatre into one agency called National Council of Arts and Culture; Industrial Training Fund to be self-funding, etc.
Unfortunately, the Federal Government rejected the merger or abolition of many agencies such as the merger of Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) and Voice of Nigeria (VON) to form Federal Corporation Broadcasting of Nigeria; merger of National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and National Refugees Commission; abolition of National Hajj Commission and Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission; merger of Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) and the regulatory functions of NIPOST to form Communications Regulatory Authority of Nigeria, merger of National Directorate of Employment (NDE) and SMEDAN; abolition of Ministry of Police Affairs, etc.
It is important to point out that the Federal Government has been initiating Public Administration reforms to address the issues of cost of governance in Nigeria over the years. These include the setting up of committees, the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) and employee mobility. Since 1999, the Federal Government has set up several committees to address the issues of cost of governance. These committees have submitted their reports and most of the recommendations revolve around elimination of ghost workers, reduction of recurrent expenditure, proper project management (of contracts), restructuring of the public service, etc. The Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) was formulated by the Federal Government to improve the effectiveness and efficiency in the storage of personnel records and administration of monthly payroll with the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT). The objectives of the system include among other things to facilitate planning and decision making; aid budgeting; monitor monthly staff emoluments and eliminate payroll fraud. According to the Minister of Finance and the Co-ordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. (Mrs) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Federal Government has saved the sum of N118.9 billion from payroll cost with the introduction of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS). The employee mobility policy was formulated to improve human resource management and ensure that the right personnel are placed in the right office at the right time to motivate officers to deliver service with competence, objectivity and integrity.
The greatest obstacle to these initiatives of the Federal Government to reform the public service and bring down the cost of governance are implementation problems and resistance from within. There has not been sufficient political will to implement the various reports of committees set up to reform the public service and bring down the cost of governance. The Oronsaye committee report is a good example. The committee submitted its report on April 16, 2012 and the white paper was issued in March, 2014, two years later. Even with the issuance of the white paper, the implementation is problematic. Instead of sending the appropriate bills to the National Assembly to amend the laws setting up some of the agencies that have been scrapped, the government is doing it with administrative fiat. Despite the advertised gains of the IPPIS, there appears to be resistance from within for its full implementation.
There is no doubt that the cost of governance in Nigeria is not sustainable. It is also clear that what needs to be done is known. The political leadership, the public service leadership, the civil society as watchdog and the media must put a sustained focus on these issues so that cost of governance can be reduced in Nigeria and ultimately, public services will be delivered to Nigerian citizens in an efficient, effective, responsive and accountable manner.
• Dr. Otive Igbuzor is a Pharmacist, Human Rights Activist, Policy Analyst, Development Expert and Strategist. He holds a doctorate degree in Public Administration.