•President Muhammadu Buhari
The Nigerian government may be forced to merge its close to 900 ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs) and also slash salaries of its workers in part of the measures to cut down on the rising cost of governance that has dwarfed revenue.
This is indicated by the directive from President Muhammadu Buhari to the Zainab Ahmed-led-Presidential Committee on salaries for a review of salaries and payroll of the federal institutions as the country battles to marry cost to revenue.
“Mr. President has directed that the salaries committee which I chair, work together with the Head of Service and other members of the committee to review the Federal Government’s payrolls in terms of stepping down on cost,” said Ahmed who is also the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning”.
She revealed that the FG will also review the number of agencies in terms of their mandates adding that the government will look at merging agencies with the same mandate.
The country’s revenue has nosedived while responsibilities continue to grow with the attendant costs which have grown at a faster pace.
For instance, Nigeria has a bloated federal structure with about 900 federal parastatals and ministries. Despite the large number, its source of revenue still remains oil and gas which price has plunged since the beginning of last year prior to the Covid pandemic that has further plummet the economy.
Ahmed speaking at the “National Policy Dialogue on Corruption and Cost of Governance in Nigeria” in Abuja, lamented the unnecessary costs accruing to the federal government, saying that they are now poised to removing frivolous items from the budget as a move to cut the cost of governance in the country.
President Buhari assented a budget of N13.9 trillion on December 30 of which N5.6 trillion was for recurrent and N1.060 trillion is capital vote. The budget has projected revenue of N7.98 trillion to fund part of it.
The minister at the Dialogue organised by the Independent Corrupt Practice Commission (ICPC) noted that with the above breakdown, “We still see government expenditure increase to a terrain twice higher than our revenue,” Ahmed said.
The Finance ministry boss added that government agencies must work at trimming costs amid the country’s dwindling revenue. “We need to work together with all agencies of the government to cut down our costs. We need to cut down unnecessary expenditures, especially the ones we can do without.
“Take a look at our yearly budgets; they are filled with projects that occur over and over again. And these projects are unnecessary.
The ICPC Chairman, Bolaji Owasanoye, said that the cost of governance in the country was very high and no longer sustainable.
Although the government is committed to improving the country’s revenue from new and existing sources and also tracking projects through its digitalisation processes, Owasanoye however said the government’s commitment to streamline payroll, removal of subsidies and reduction of the cost of contracts and procurement are all for the benefits of the “poor and vulnerable.
Owasanoye lamented “payroll padding” and the “phenomenon of ghost workers in addition to the duplication of constituency projects by lawmakers for which funds was usually released without any mechanism for monitoring, evaluation, and reconciliation.
Citing a project executed by the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) which was inadvertently diverted as an executive project, Owasanoye said that over the years, corrupt officials of government have devised means to beat measures already put in place in the fight against corruption but his agency would not relent in the fight of ridding the country of corruption and all its elements.
Other speakers at the event were unanimous in their calls for the reduction of the 943 Federal agencies in the country, saying that many of them have duplicating functions.
They argued that the civil service size was unattainable for the size of the economy and that the effects are rising cost of governance, scarce resources, infrastructural gap, abandoned/uncompleted projects, the underperformance of the economy, and continuous failure of the national budget.
They also recommended that the country be restructured into 6 regions instead of 36 states, reduction of cabinet ministries, continuous staff audits, evaluation of job distribution, and harmonisation of staff salaries across all MDAs
The deliberation at the Policy Dialogue on Corruption and Cost of Governance, the first of a two-pronged dialogue session planned for the year 2021 by the ICPC is a re-echo of the recomemendation of the committee on the harmonosation of federal civil service chaired by former Head of Service, Steve Oronsaye that federal agencies with identical responsibilities be merged while those that are no longer relevant be scrapped to free resources for the government.
The recommendation was passed to the then Secretary to the Federal government, Pius Anyim and the idea was killed.
The idea came up again at the Senate during the scrutiny of the 2020 budget and after a meeting with President Buhari with the leadership of the upper chamber, the recommendation was again passed to Boss Mustapha at the SGF’s office which has also buried it. (InsideBusiness)