Tuesday, 21 April 2015

IMPORTANT READ: DG, BPSR, Dr Joe Abah corrects a WRONG NOTION on the Implementation of the Oronsaye Report.

The Director General of Bureau of Public Service Reforms, BPSR, Dr Joe Abah (pictured above) was a guest on the TV programme 'Global Business' on AIT. Below is a portion of the transcript from the interview.
AIT: How ready is the public service for the new government?

DG: The public service is currently doing a lot of work in preparation for the coming of the new administration, which my Bureau has been supporting. One of the most important pieces of work we’ve done is to document all of the reforms that have happened over the last 15 years and assess them to see which ones are working and which ones are not, and what we need to do next. We are also in the process of documenting handover notes. Which is actually due today to the Secretary of the Government of the Federation and by next week my Bureau will start training civil servants on how to prepare handover notes from Minister to Minister. So we expect by the time the new administration sets up it’s transition committee, there will be quite a lot of material that they can use. 

AIT: I'm glad you talked about 15 years of reforms. The outgoing government had set up the Oronsaye Committee which did its own paper which has not been implemented. Let’s look at it and your Bureau’s implementation of all these reforms. Let's look at how far you have gone in implementing for instance the Oronsaye agenda?

DG: Ok. The first thing to say is that it is not true that it has not been implemented. Because I’m actually the secretary to the implementation committee, and the white paper that responds to the Oransaye report, has a number of areas of focus. There are a number of parastatals and agencies that are slated for abolition. For most of them you can’t abolish them unless you repeal the law setting them up. There are one or two that you can, like NAPEP, and NAPEP has already been abolished, and it’s staff transferred to other parts of government. There are some that the white paper says should be merged; there are others which should be commercialised and government should stop funding; and there are yet others that the paper says there are laws that should be amended in certain ways, so as an example NAPEP has already been abolished, in terms of ones that are to seize funding from the 2015 budget, we have actually ensured they have not been included in the 2015 budget in terms of their overheads, and their capital, and because the staff are still staff of the federal government, they are being redeployed to other parts of government, so no it is not true that the white paper is not being implemented. 

AIT: We can look at that, I'm just saying how far?

DG: You started off by saying the Oronsaye report hasn’t been implemented and that is what I wanted to correct. In terms of how far we’ve gone both the Oronsaye report and aspects of the white paper actually has some errors, so there are regulatory organisations, bodies and councils for instance that were erroneously labelled as professional associations, so if you have a professional association, like the Nigerian Bar association for instance, Government has no business giving them any money, so the white paper say all professional associations, government will no longer fund. But some councils set up erroneously….

AIT: Give us an example? 

JA: An example would be the council for the regulation of mining engineers which is a regulatory body and not a professional association. The government should fund them as a regulatory body. So a number of organisations, actually submitted appeals, backed by their laws, which the white paper implementation committee considered, and has compiled and is presenting to the President for an amendment of the white paper, so it will reflect the correct things. There are some other ones where sub committees of the implementation committee are working together, to see how you can merge these organisations, because where you merge two organisations for example you have two directors of accounts, you have two directors of HR, you have two of almost everything, you have to think very carefully about what is the optimal structure, for that organisation. It is not easy work and if you're not careful, it can actually cause more harm than good. So we’ve been quite deliberate about how we are doing the implementation; we’ve highlighted all the issues raised by the white paper; we’ve listened to all the appeals, we’ve documented them, and are presenting them to Mr President to approve the revision of the white paper. Some of which we have done, like I mentioned there is no budget provision in the 2015 budget for those organisations the government should not be funding. 

AIT: So let’s look at the essential question, the whole essence of these reforms is to make the public service effective. There is a school of thought that the public service is over bloated. Do you agree with this? And what is your Bureau doing to make it more effective?

DG: Very interesting question. We need to be clear about a number of things. When you say the public service is bloated, bloated for what? Is it bloated in relation to the size of our population? we only have 100 thousand civil servants, in a country which has 180 million people. So let’s be careful about sweeping statements like that which is often informed by certain schools of thoughts from other parts of the world. If you were to ask, considering the size of the civil service, is it performing optimally? that would be a different discussion. So which do you mean?

...to be continued

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