Thursday, 5 November 2015


Changing the Structure of Government 

The Problem
The structure of government and how ministries and agencies are organised have remained largely the same since the return of democratic governance in 1999. There have been changes in nomenclature and even attempts to merge and demerge certain ministries but the core structure and approach of managing government business has largely remained the same. This meant that the traditional approaches, orientation and ways of doing business have not kept pace with modern advances in public service delivery. As an example, the responsibility for coordinating economic matters was placed in the hands of the Economic Affairs Department of the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, headed by a Permanent Secretary. They found it difficult to truly coordinate the work of the Ministry of Finance and its subsidiaries, the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Debt Management Office, the National Planning Commission and the Ministry of Commerce, as it then was, among others. On some occasions, different managers of the same economy produced conflicting figures about the same issues. Agriculture was not treated as a business and efforts to encourage indigenous manufacturing and production were ad-hoc and uncoordinated. Similarly, key central bodies like the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation and the Federal Civil Service Commission were unwieldy and not totally focused on their core mandates. Agencies and parastatals were weak and many delivered little or no services and were simply a drain on the public purse.

Reform Actions
The Obasanjo regime made efforts to reduce the number of federal ministries by merging some ministries. Therefore, the Ministry of Energy combined the functions of Power, Petroleum and Gas; Environment and Housing were put together as one ministry; Transportation covered Aviation; and Agriculture and Water Resources were put together as one ministry. The Yar’adua administration reversed these mergers and raised the number of ministries from 22 to 28. The Ministry of Power was created as a separate ministry, as were Aviation and Petroleum Resources. A new Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs was created and the Ministry of Police Affairs was resuscitated. However, these reforms merely redrew boundaries and did not dramatically change the way that things are done.

Apart from a few changes, the Jonathan Administration largely kept the structure of ministries inherited from the Yar’adua administration. The real change introduced by the Jonathan Administration is in the new philosophy of government and the way that government thinks and works. The following are the key reform actions.
  1. Designation of a Coordinating Minister for the Economy: The Honourable Minister of Finance was designated the Coordinating Minister for the Economy. This meant that all economic activity was overseen by a full minister, rather than by a permanent secretary in a small office in the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
  2. Refocusing Agriculture as a Business: This involved changing the mind-set of the Ministry of Agriculture from viewing agriculture almost as a social welfare initiative to seeing it as a viable business.
  1. Repositioning the Ministry of Trade and Investment: This ministry is now sharply focused on attracting investment to Nigeria, encouraging regional and international trade and boosting local manufacturing. It has put in place a National Industrial Revolution Plan.
  2. Focusing on Communication Technology: The focus here is to ensure that government business is run efficiently and effectively using the up-to-date communication technology. The intention is to move the public service from an analogue to a digital mentality and approach.
  3. Reinvigorating the National Planning Commission: This involved giving the National Planning Commission the responsibility for coordinated national monitoring and evaluation, and ensuring that national plans are measurable with key performance indicators.
  4. Designating a Special Adviser to the President on Performance Monitoring and Evaluation: This is to ensure that key government projects are delivered on time, cost and to the desired quality and to evaluate their effectiveness in terms of outcomes and impact.
  5. Unbundling the Power Sector: Changing the approach of the Ministry of Power from that of a direct provider of service to that of a contract manager is designed to position the sector to solve Nigeria’s perennial power problems.
  6. Restructuring the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation and the Federal Civil Service Commission: There was a need to streamline these key central organisations to ensure that they focus on their core mandates and drive the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the public service.
  7. Divestment of BPSR and the Pension Function from the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation. This was designed to reduce problems with the pension administration of people on the old non-contributory pension scheme; and to reposition BPSR for greater effectiveness.
  8. Resuscitation of the National Steering Committee on Public Service Reforms: This committee, which is responsible for providing strategic leadership for public service reform, had been moribund since 2009.
  9. Restructuring and Rationalisation of Federal Government Agencies, Parastatals and Commissions: The purpose of this work is to reduce the cost of governance and reposition agencies for greater efficiency and effectiveness.

Reference:  Public Service Reforms in Nigeria (1999-2014) - A Comprehensive Review

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