Governance is on the Upswing in Kaduna

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Jameelah Sanda writes that the Kaduna State government under the leadership of Governor Nasir el-Rufai is trying to bring about a shift in the perception of the public regarding governance in the state

Call him ‘unsung’ hero of Kaduna transformation, you will not be far from the truth, but throughout his campaign and until May 29, 2015 when he was sworn-in as the as the Governor of Kaduna State for his first term, Nasir el-Rufai never minced words. He vowed to do all that was humanly possible to move the state forward, and that is exactly what he has been doing.

The Governor el-Rufai administration, which came into power against the background of promise to change the state positively, has a lot to show as evidence of its working to meet peoples’ expectations of its “restoration agenda.”

Some of the major promises he made to do things differently; including putting the people first and to deliver excellent public services to them. The government pledged to do this by battling waste and fraud, reducing the cost of running government and growing Internally-Generated Revenue (IGR) as ways to free the state from over-dependence on federal allocation.

Armed with these vision, mission and direction, El-Rufai hit the ground running in 2015. He introduced state-wide reforms aimed at cutting the cost of governance and achieving efficiency in public service. First, El-Ruiafi and his deputy announced a 50 percent slash on their salaries and allowances. Next government ministries were trimmed from 19 to 14. The number of commissioners were also reduced from 24 to 15.

Though the cabinet was shrunk, it proved highly effective. According to the governor, the initiative freed up resources used in running the government for public good. For instance, while the budgetary allocation for running government House was around N3 billion in 2015 under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), it but was reduced to about N600 million in the first budget ever prepared by the El-Rufai administration in 2016.

Kaduna’s public service was gulping N2.7 billion monthly when El-Rufai came on the saddle in May 2015, it was brought down to N2.2 billion. A biometric exercise to verify employees in the state payroll eliminated ghost workers and saved the state N500 million monthly.

In August 2015, at the onset of this administration, Kaduna State pioneered the implementation of Treasury Single Account (TSA) regarded as a policy tool that helps reduce waste and leakages. The government directed its bankers to close all government accounts and remit the balances to the state’s TSA at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). There had been 470 accounts from which N24.5 billion were remitted to the state’s TSA.

Kaduna State adopted zero-based budgeting because budgets were not based on realistic estimates of revenues and thus did not deliver results. Hence, every expenditure item must be justified based on necessity, cost, and availability of funds, vis-a-vis other competing needs before it can be inputted in the budget.

The passing of the Public Procurement Law, 2016 and the creation of Kaduna Public Procurement Agency (KADPPA) guaranteed transparency in public procurement, audited financial accounts are published annually on its official website and the national dailies so citizens are free to scrutinise the state’s accounts. The state also adopted the International Public-Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) aimed at improving transparency and accountability in public finance management and reporting, and the step attracted the commendation of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria.

Still to ensure transparency, Kaduna signed to the Open Governance Partnership (OGP). It was on record that it was the first sub-national in the world to do so. Kaduna therefore committed itself to permit citizens participation in governance and to run an open and transparent governance.

The El-Rufai administration moved to save the local governments from the huge burden of carrying over-bloated civil servants and traditional rulers, whose burden hindered them from rendering services to the grassroots, a major constitutional mandate of the local government councils by ordering a Staffing Order for LGAs in November 2017. This saw to the reduction of the staff strength of the 23 local government councils of the State to 6, 896, excluding primary school teachers and health workers.

The government restructured the traditional institutions reverting to pre-2001 status of 77 districts and 1429 village units, down from 390 districts and 5882 village units created in 2001. This decision relieved the 23 LGAs of the heavy burden of paying 4766 staff. Presently, all the LGAs have become solvent, able to pay salaries monthly and execute projects without encumbrances.

The need to implement the Restoration Programme, which is the All Progressives Congress (APC) Kaduna version of APC Manifesto on a sustainable basis led to the development of Kaduna State Development Plan (SDP 2016-2020), which serves as a medium-term goal of APC change platform which reflects the state government’s desire to restore Kaduna State to its lost glory through a planned, orderly and coherent development of the state.

This five-year plan outlined the aspirations of the state government to restore Kaduna to its former glory, including a strategic framework to realize the vision, resource projections to guide and prioritize expenditure, and an implementation plan to deliver results and monitor progress. The goals were linked to the budget through the Sector Implementation Plans (SIPs) with strengthened budget and expenditure management systems and processes.

The El-Rufai administration sets to address the dysfunctional infrastructure that fraught the state. This led to the development of the Kaduna Infrastructure Master Plan (KADIMP 2018-2050), a 32-year plan aimed at addressing the state’s infrastructure deficits.

Implementing Kaduna State Infrastructure Master Plan requires the sum of $65.6b (N20 trillion) from government spending, private sector investment and support from development partners was anchored on a long-term perspective, 2018-2050, in the hope that government, the private sector, communities and external partners will work together to achieve the ambitious targets set.

As part of efforts to make government more efficient, some government agencies were restructured and new ones driven by innovations and technology were created to provide services using best global practices. Some of such were the Kaduna Geographic Information Service (KADGIS), created to digitised land registry ending a regime of land racketeering, fraud, and maladministration.

• The Kaduna Internal Revenue Service (KADIRS) was created to replace the old Internal Revenue Service, serving as the sole agency collecting tax and revenues for the state and the 23 local government councils. In its two years of operations, KADIRS has eclipsed previous records of revenue collected in the state without having to increase revenues for taxpayers. In 2016, Kaduna’s IGR rose from N11 billion (2015) to N23 billion. This was further raised to N28 billion in 2017. KADIRS is moving towards achieving complete automation and has since banned cash transactions in revenue collections, blocked leakages and eliminated multiple taxations which were discouraging businesses in the state.

There were other bodies such as KASTELEA, which handles road traffic control, state vigilante service, Drugs and Substance Abuse Control Agency, Kaduna State Transport Regulation Authority, Kaduna Roads Agency (KADRA), Kaduna Peace Commission, Kaduna Investment Promotion Agency (KADIPA), Kaduna Facility Management Agency (KADFAMA), Kaduna Water Service Regulatory Commission among others, Kaduna State Power Supply Company (KAPSCO) and Kaduna Contributory Health Insurance Authority.

On May 12, 2018, the people of Kaduna State made history when they chose new leaders for its local government councils using electronic voting. The commission has also fixed Wednesday, 6th June 2018 to conduct rescheduled elections in some of the local government areas.

Coming at the time when insecurity and violent clashes became recurrent in some parts of the state such as Birnin Gwari and parts of Southern Kaduna, Governor el-Rufai committed time and resources to providing security for lives and property and peace building in the state. He had inherited some security challenges including ethnic and religious conflicts, urban gangs, cattle rustling and rural banditry, armed robbery and kidnapping. El-Rufai has really tried to stop all these in Kaduna

Education, which is known as the greatest leveler among all classes of people in the society, and a ladder for social mobility has become elusive for children of the poor in Kaduna State due to decades of neglect by successive governments in the state. Public education has deteriorated so much that only children of the poor attend public schools and to get a decent education, one must patronise private schools which only children of the rich can afford.

This was the sorry condition for more than 4000 primary schools and more than 1000 secondary schools in the state before 2015 when Governor El-Rufai assumed leadership of the state. The state was performing as poorly as four percent in West African Examination (WAEC) in 2010 and 10 percent in 2011.

There have been efforts to reverse the decay in the educational sector. Fifteen secondary schools selected from the three senatorial zones of the state benefited from the “Whole School Renovation Programme”, which include renovation of all existing classrooms, hostels, laboratories and staff quarters. It includes provision of teaching equipment and provision of water and electricity. Beds, mattresses, furniture and books were also supplied to the schools.

Governor El-Rufai pledged to improve access to healthcare and to improve health outcomes for our people. And achieving this with the support of the healthcare workers. The state won First Prize in two editions of the Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) Week for testing more than 200,000 pregnant women, which showed HIV/AIDS prevalence of less than 0.3%. implementing free healthcare for children under five, pregnant women and the elderly, as promised. Recently, the state cabinet agreed to provide cash cover for the treatment of elderly diabetics and hypertensives, starting from age 70.

In the area of agriculture, he encouraged farmers through several initiatives. They know they have a ready route to market and have the assurance of a price support programme. Fertiliser subsidy has been eliminated, but farmers still got 50,000 tons of fertilizer in 2016 at N4000 per bag. The state government accomplished this by refusing to award fertiliser contracts, and by convincing a private company to sell fertiliser directly to farmers.

Land administration reforms have advanced significantly. El-rufai established the Kaduna Geographic Information Service (KADGIS) which is digitizing the land registry. The body has also commenced the recertification programme to convert old, unreliable paper Certificates of Occupancy into digital titles, while launching the systematic land titling and registration to give opportunity to farmers and other untitled land owners to get valid title at a fee of N5000. The security of title, the transparency of land search and the ability to transact in land without undue hassles are vital to running a modern economy.

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There have been efforts to reverse the decay in the educational sector. Fifteen secondary schools selected from the three senatorial zones of the state benefited from the “Whole School Renovation Programme”, which include renovation of all existing classrooms, hostels, laboratories and staff quarters