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Dec 22, 2015

Public Sector Reforms


More insight was provided into the policies of the Muhammadu Buhari administration on Wednesday when Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo announced that the government had embarked on a process to retool public institutions to make them more proactive and effective in service delivery to Nigerians.

In this regard, he said public sector reforms had become critical for accountable and transparent use of national resources.

He said the main objective was to enhance the capacity of the institution to deliver public goods effectively in response to citizens’ needs and demands.

Speaking in Abuja at the ongoing 21st Nigerian Economic Summit (NES), he also said there would be no sacred cow in the reforms that would be undertaken, adding the same rules would apply to “all of us”.

He specifically argued that change was needed among the elite, which often works to subvert laid down rules.

Speaking during a round-table discussion on reforming public institutions to ensure competitiveness and accountability, he said government also hopes to create an environment for the respect of human rights and the rule of law in order to enhance competitiveness in the private sector.

He further foreclosed that government would review its tax regime to raise its non-oil revenue base, stressing that revenue collection would only have to be more efficient to improve collections.

Other initiatives outlined by Prof. Osinbajo included the Treasury Single Account (TSA), Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS), Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS), adoption of zero-based budgeting, bottom-up economic planning model, the Anti-Corruption Committee and capacity building for public servants.

He said federal agencies currently had overlapping functions and responsibilities without a positive working relationship among them, which he added made several ministeries, departments and agencies (MDAs) work at cross-purposes without harmony in project execution.

“At the moment, the MDAs are accused of unhealthy competition and this claim has led to the silly mindset that MDAs do not talk to each other enough.

“We found out that many MDAs are executing the same projects and programmes and sometimes achieving similar results without necessarily talking to each other at all. That we believe is a waste of resources.

“We must streamline the work of the ministries and be sure there is sufficient information going on among them and there is a clear part in line with the policy direction of government.

“One of the basis of our zero budgeting process is that it takes into account this particular issue because everyone will be working towards a particular policy direction and we will also be very conscious of how much the institutions are doing in complying with the policy.

“Also in the civil service, we are putting mechanisms in place to enhance service delivery; we are engaging the agencies into an atmosphere where everyone can make an input on what they think should and should not be done.

“This is one of the ways we want to increase participation and we have asked the permanent secretaries to do same for the robust process of reforming the public institutions,” he explained.

Continuing, Osinbajo said government was trying to address fiscal indiscipline through the introduction of the zero budgeting system from 2016.

“The zero-based budget is a system that requires every agency to justify what its actual costs are. So every agency starts at zero naira and justifies the items in the budget, rather than the incremental budgetary system – you start at zero and justify your new budget.

“That way we believe we will be able to cut costs and easily align policies with the budget. People are working round the clock to make sure we are able to present the budget in good time; it’s a rigorous process, but we think that the process is necessary if we are going to be able to rationalise costs,” he said.

The vice-president pointed out that creating an atmosphere where corruption is stemmed would require the whole process of strict observance of the code of ethics and elimination of conflicts of interest, adding: “These are some of the discussions that we will be having with the ministers at a retreat once the ministers have been sworn in.

“The issues will revolve around issues on the code of ethics, around transparency, accountability and what the government intends to do in ensuring that each public official is held to account and transparent in their conduct, especially as they interface with the public.

“A lot of these issues are being developed daily and we are working very closely with the institutions in order to not only access their current needs, but get a sense of how the reforms will go.”

Also speaking on the enforcement of the TSA, the vice-president said: “This is not a new policy, but the difference is that it is being implemented by the current administration.

“The whole point of the TSA policy does not mean that all revenue must always remain with the CBN. But what happened in the past was that many revenue-generating agencies kept their own accounts and kept many accounts unknown to government.

“For instance, an agency like the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) was running several accounts many of them not even known to the government, so as it were, there were two parallel systems of revenue and expenditure: one which is the budget appropriated properly.

“And so you will find situations where NNPC was spending and in many cases was not reflecting this in the overall size of the budget.

“That essentially gave rise to huge discussions. So it was possible for those managing the economy not to quite understand what was going on, on the one hand, which is what gave rise to the TSA policy and under this policy all government revenues must come through the central bank.

“After that any agency that needs to spend money would do so after proper appropriation. Every expenditure must be based on a budget duly presented to the National Assembly.”

In her contribution during the round-table discussion, a former Minister of Education, Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili, suggested a carrot-and-stick approach, stating that reforming the public sector to be competitive would require a system of incentives and sanctions where applicable, as well as increasing productivity levels.

She said the pressure for change had assumed a universal dimension, which required the leadership of government pushing everybody in the direction of reform.

In a related development, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Babachir Lawal on Wednesday directed all federal government agencies to collate and submit their procurement records for 2014 to the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) within two weeks or risk being sanctioned.

The SGF gave the directive in Abuja while declaring a one-day interactive session on public procurement with directorate cadre procurement officers of federal ministries organised by BPP.

Represented by the Director, Economic Policy Analysis, Office of the SGF, Dr. Ijeoma Unaogu, Lawal said punitive measures for non-compliance with the directive would include suspension of officers responsible for procurement or disposal proceeding in issue; replacement of the head or any of the members of the procuring or disposal unit of any entity or the chairperson of the tenders' board as the case may be; and disciplining the accounting officer of any procuring entity and temporary transfer of the procuring and disposal function of a procuring and disposing entity to a third party procurement agency or consultant.

The SGF stated that Nigeria was one of the few countries whose procurement regulatory frameworks and legislation is patterned after the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) model law on public procurement.

He said as a signatory to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), the country's fight against corruption was statutorily expected to shift from corrective to preventive measures.

“This will involve ensuring strict compliance with extant regulations and guidelines on public procurement.

“For avoidance of doubt, this administration strictly upholds the rule of law and as such, submission of procurement records and all other statutory requirements of the Procurement Act shall be enforced by this government.

“To this end, I hereby direct all MDAs to collate and submit their procurement records for 2014 to the BPP on or before Monday, the 26th of October, 2015,” he said.

In a statement by the BPP spokesperson, Odemwingie Thomas, the SGF further directed the procurement agency to submit the list of ministries which fail to comply with the directive to his office “for appropriate sanctions”.

The SGF welcomed efforts of the BPP to collaborate with state governments in order to domesticate the Procurement Act in their respective states to ensure that the gains of the reforms at the federal level transcend to the sub-national level.

He said: “Government will take more than a passing interest in the National Public Procurement Forum in which the bureau is already taking the lead.”

On the issue of the governing council of the bureau, he assured the MDAs that the National Council on Public Procurement (NCPP) would be inaugurated as soon as government has satisfactorily addressed the issues pertaining to the body.



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Dec 22, 2015

Osinbajo Opens up on Public Sector Reforms, Rationalisation of MDAs.

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