Revisiting Oronsaye report on Civil Service | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Revisiting Oronsaye report on Civil Service

Posted: Apr 19, 2015 at 6:34 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Temidayo Akinsuyi Snr. Correspondent, Lagos

It emerged recently that president-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, may adopt the neglected Stephen Oronsaye Report on Civil Service Reforms as part of effort to trim down the Nigerian Civil Service and cut down cost. The policy is expected to streamline some institutions whose functions may have been duplicated such as the anti-graft agencies: the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Miscellaneous Crimes Commission (ICPC).



It would be recalled that following public outcry over the high cost of governance in the country, President Goodluck Jonathan on August 18, 2011, inaugurated a committee to restructure and rationalise the federal government agencies, with former Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Stephen Oronsaye, as its chairman. The committee’s mandate included, among others, to: study and review all previous reports/records on the restructuring of federal parastatals and advise on whether they are still relevant or not; examine critically the mandates of the existing federal agencies, parastatals and commissions and determine areas of overlap or duplication of functions and make appropriate recommendations.

At the end of its assignment, the committee recommended the abolition of 38 agencies, merger of 52 and reversion of 14 agencies to departments in the relevant ministries. The committee also recommended the conduct of management audit for 89 agencies to capture the biometric features of staff as well as the discontinuation of government funding of professional bodies/councils. A breakdown of what would be saved from the exercise gave N124.8bn from agencies proposed for abolition; N100.6bn from agencies proposed for mergers; N6.6bn from professional bodies; N489.9bn from universities; N50.9bn from polytechnics; N32.3bn from colleges of education and N616m from boards of federal medical centres. In summary, the committee recommended the scrapping of 102 statutory agencies from the current 263, abolition of 38 agencies, merger of 52 and reversion of 14 to departments in the ministries. The 800-page report also recommended the discontinuation of government funding of professional bodies and councils.

However, it is now more than three years since that report submitted yet there is no sign of any commitment on the part of the president to cut down on the waste that the over 420 ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) has become.

Report to receive attention

President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, also alluded to this while unveiling his economic policies at a Lagos Business School breakfast meeting recently. Buhari, who was represented by former Governor of Ekiti State and Director of Policy for the All Progressives Congress, Kayode Fayemi said that he would run a very lean government, which would involve rationalising overlapping and redundant ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) in line with the Steve Oronsaye presidential committee report.

While admitting that corruption in government circle is the bane of significant progress and development in the civil service,  Buhari said he is going to run a very lean government in line with what was outlined in the Oronsaye report. He added that the report was made available to incumbent president and would have greatly improved the lot of the country. This according to him, however was not so as the government lacks the will to implement the report. “A very lean government is the focus, largely in line with the Steve Oronsaye presidential committee report.”

Inspite of repeated assurance from the government to appropriately down-size its unwieldy work force and cost of governance, most Nigerians doubt the commitment of the government to fully implement the recommendations of the report. This was also alluded to by Buhari who said “This report was available to the Jonathan government, but the will to implement it was absent”.

Shedding more light on his plans for implementing the report, Buhari also spoke on his plan to consolidate such anti-corruption agencies as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), among others.

According to him, rather than strengthen key anti-corruption agencies like EFCC, ICPC and SFI, they are likely to be consolidated and a single entity would be made more effective.

Agbakoba, others react

Speaking with Daily Independent on the need for a full implemenmation of the report, former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Olisa Agbakoba said a starting point for Buhari is to study the report and take decision on how he wants to implement it. According to him, “The purpose and terms of reference of the report was to review the public sector to determine the box load and to see whether scrapping them will reduce the box load and to also see whether there are agencies that  can be merged together to avoid duplication and therefore cut waste and make it efficient.  Clearly, I think a starting point for the incoming president is to study the report and take decision on how he wants to implement them.”

“Even without the report, many people know that there are too many government agencies, too many government officials and it is not sustainable that we spend 85 percent of our revenue on less than 500,000 Nigerians to the exclusion of 170 million Nigerians. We are spending too much money on the civil service. That is what the Oronsaye report established. So, if we want a new and efficient government where things are done appropriately, without the Oronsaye report, we definitely have to do something about it.”

The National Assembly consumes 25 percent of our national resource, that is horrendously outrageous.  They refused to follow the Revenue Fiscal and Mobilisation Commission requirement that salaries are set by them. So, how can we have a situation where the national assembly is spending 25 percent of our national budget plus an over-bloated civil service? I know that there will be pain but the truth is that no pain, no gain. That is why President Buhari must devise an agenda for expanding the economy. It is not just about him sacking people so as to reduce the workforce. I have always talked about the fact that the maritime sector can generate a lot of jobs.”

“There has to be a holistic, comprehensive developmental agenda that shakes up Nigeria and put people in the right place so that the government is not seen as the only employer of labour. All these politicians you see today are only interested in the money that is available once they come into office. If you become a senator and you are going to receive N500million a year, it is very attractive. So, in order to deal with this issue, the president must rationalize the way the civil service works and expand the economy to make government less attractive and the private sector more attractive.”

Also speaking, the former Chaplain, Aso Villa Chapel, Rev. William Okoye, also advised Buhari to revisit the Stephen Oronsaye-led Committee’s report on civil service reforms which recommended the scrapping of some agencies for guidance. This according to him will greatly help in reducing the cost of governance through the reduction in the remuneration of political office holders and reduction in the number of political offices.

“Buhari should focus on eradicating mediocrity in governance which is usually fuelled by too much consideration on ethnicity, religion, gender and political affiliations. The new dispensation should promote meritocracy,” he counselled.

“I will advise therefore that he concentrates on areas of his comparative advantage to move our country forward, because no one administration can achieve everything it promises. He should endeavour to reduce the cost of governance by taking another look at the remuneration of political office holders, reduce the number of political offices and revisit the Oronsaye Report on civil service reforms for guidance.

“It is not going to be easy, but that is the cost of leadership. Nigeria is about the most expensive in terms of paying of political office holders and we are not so rich. If other rich countries could cut down their cost of governance, we should do that as well, unless we don’t want to move forward, especially given our present economic challenges.”

He further warned the incoming administration against any move to cut down the meagre salaries of civil servants, saying: “Rather, we should look for a way of making them more productive and continue to pay them well. In any area that we have many civil servants, we can easily retrain them and send them to areas like the agricultural sector, where we need a lot of hands. Instead of retrenching them, government should retrain them and move them in that direction,” he said.