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Lessons from BPSR’s new reform strategies for MDAs

Dr. Joe Abah

Dr. Joe Abah

The new strategies being put in place by the Bureau of Public Service Reforms [BPSR] to reposition operations in the federal government Ministries, Departments and Agencies [MDA s] at the lowest costs are commendable.

The new move by the BPRS which is also being emulated by state and local government administrations, clearly shows the capacity of MDAs and their resolve to adapt to positive changes that will bring succor to governance for the benefit of all in the society.

From a very positive perspective, the reforms aims at cutting costs in government operations is expected to save huge sums of money that could be channeled to capital projects with the view of creating new jobs, wealth and a prosperous Nigerian economy of our dreams.Very recently, the public sector has come into a new wave of prominence in the last fifteen years in Nigeria and Africa at large for two significant but interrelated reasons. The first reason is that since 1999, there has been a wave of democratic revival in the whole of Africa that led to countries like Nigeria responding to the demand for good governance and responsible government while the second reason is that, for government to be responsible in enthroning good governance, it requires a machinery of government that presents and transforms the intention of the government to the people in the form of policy formulation and policy implementation that impacts on the lives of the citizens.

Up till now, the Nigerian Civil Service has come under severe criticism especially, in the areas of corruption, unnecessary bureaucratic bottle necks, tribalism, inefficient and ineffective in the discharge of it’s duties.among others. To quickly address these anomalies, the Federal government came with the idea of reforming the civil service for better performance and service delivery.

A compelling reasons for the reforms was the parlous state of the economy of the nation and the erosion of public confidence in government and its institutions to deliver the much expected dividends of democracy.. The reform agenda focused on the Public Sector Reforms, Privatization/Liberalization, Governance, Transparency and Anti-Corruption, Service Delivery with the main goals of abundant wealth creation, employment generation, poverty reduction and value re-orientation.

The onus to drive the reforms was placed on the shoulders of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms [BPSR]. Just recently as part of the continuation of reforming the civil service, the BPSR in collaboration with the Efficiency Unit of the Federal Ministry of Finance organized a One-Day ”Lunch Time Reforms Seminar Series” on ”Efficiency in Conduct of Government Business” in Abuja..

In a speech to the occasion, the Head, Efficiency Unit, Federal Ministry of Finance, Patricia Oniha, said, for growth and development [Job creation, diversification of the economy, improved quality of life etc] more of the country’s revenue should be deployed to Capital Projects stressing that to achieve this objective, Recurrent Expenditure has to be moderated. even as she described the colossal waste of N241.95 billion on top 5 Overhead Expenditure Items by Ministries, Department and Agencies [MDAs] in 2014 alone as unacceptable..

According to her, a brake down of the items indicates that Travels [Local and international] cost government N69.42 billion, Welfare 49.71 billion, Office Stationary and Computer Consumables N44.43 billion, Maintenance [All Fixed Assets] 43.20 billion, training [Local and international] N35.19 billion respectively..

Governments now operate under conditions of revenue scarcity and massive deficits, Thus a fundamental change in the way governments conduct their affairs has become imperative”.

The Efficiency Unit was established against the urgent need to achieve a better cost structure for the government and derive maximum value for money spent as government needs to use its resources more judiciously in ”Lean and Fat” times and government needs to invest more in Capital projects rather than recurrent expenditure..

The mandate of the E-Unit is on overhead Expenditure to generate savings for government from the procurement process using the government’s large buying power and Reduce costs through administrative tools and other measures..

Oniha said, ”over the years and across the world, countries have had to deal with the issue of limited financial resources relative to their needs, the challenge therefore, has always been how to distribute the limited finances between capital and recurrent expenditure where options have typically been to operate a deficit budget by borrowing to fund the gap, selling of some government assets and operate a balanced budget by matching expenditure to the available finances”.

she stated that the new thinking of government is to to ensure the most efficient use of resources and that all opportunities to make savings avoid waste and increase productivity are vigorously been pursued.

In his opening remarks, the Director-General, Bureau of Public service Reforms [BPSR] Dr. Joe Abah said in the efforts of reducing costs of running government business, the Federal government took the bold step to ban first class travels by civil servants, ”We are also looking for ways of bringing training back here to Nigeria rather than having a group of people traveling abroad and spend foreign currency, we are looking at maximizing the use of office accommodation, the Public Procurement Act itself has recently been amended to encourage the purchase of made in Nigerian goods ” among others.
Commenting on the mandate of the BPSR, Dr. Abah noted, ”We are out to improving systems and processes, improving the ways that things are done, explaining government policies which is what this event is all about, bringing the person in charge of the policy to explain to the public what they are doing and how they are doing it”.

We are presently working with the Head of Service of the Federation to improve the Performance Service of Civil Servants, we are working on rationalization of agencies and parastatals, we are working and making sure the merged Ministries work, and we are helping to reform all the MDAs”.
The Federal government is already carrying out new reforms to achieve greater efficiency, reduce waste and increase productivity in governance, Director-General, Bureau of Public Service Reforms [BPSR], Dr. Joe Abah has said.

Other reforms being considered includes,-putting a stop to traveling abroad for oversea training, use of office accommodation of MDAs instead of paying for hotels for events, co-coordinating the purchase of stationary for MDAs, reduction in the cost of entertainments, reducing the cost of advertorials in Newspapers as well as introducing performance agreement platforms in accessing officers for promotion in addition to written test among others.

He further said, ‘’You see, the Topic of Today is ‘’Lunch Seminar’’ on how we can achieve greater efficiency in the way that government business is managed and you would have heard that government is making efforts to reduce the cost of governance, This government has now banned First Class travels, we are looking at ways of reducing the cost of travels, we are looking at ways of bringing trainers back here to Nigeria rather than having a group of people traveling abroad and spend foreign currency, some of the issues also includes that of maximizing accommodation, we are looking at coordinating the purchase of stationary for MDAs, we are looking at reducing the cost of advertorials in Newspapers’’.

Abah explained that despite these measures, government is not unmindful of the workers welfare. ’’Welfare is always important to people, the issue is that unless we can cut the cost of unnecessary expenditures, it’s difficult to provide for worker’s welfare, so the more we can make governance efficient, the more resources there would be to look after workers’’.

According to him, government cannot on the one hand be inefficient ‘’The way we use the resources and at the same time have sufficient resources to improve worker’s welfare comes out from the same pot and the pot is not elastic and so, the more we can cut away waste, reduce wasteful expenditures, reduce corruption in the system, the more there will be for capital projects, the more we can make working environment more conducive’’

On sustainability, Dr. Joe Abah disclosed that the initiatives are being put in place by government through proper documentation in form of circulars stressing, ‘’So you can see that the ban of First Class travels for instance, the Office of the secretary to government has issued a Circular to that effect, there will be restriction in foreign travels generally, there will be restriction in overseas training, all of these have been backed by circulars, the Public procurement act has recently been amended to encourage the purchase of made in Nigerian goods and these are all the efforts to ensure sustainability’

 

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