FG Targets October Deadline for Oronsaye Report Implementation

Minister of Finance, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed

· EFCC, ICPC, CCB to survive merger plan
· Fiscal Responsibility Commission, NAPEP, others to go

By Obinna Chima and Dike Onwuamaeze

Barring unforeseen circumstances, the federal government wants to conclude the process for implementation of the Stephen Oronsaye committee report by October, THISDAY has learnt.

A reliable source in the Presidency disclosed the move to THISDAY at the weekend while shedding light on a recent interview by the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, with a national television station.

The Presidential Committee on Restructuring and Rationalisation of Federal Government Parastatals, Commissions and Agencies had submitted its report in 2012 during the former President Goodluck Jonathan administration. Better known as the Oronsaye report, the 660-page report had recommended a reduction in the number of government agencies and parastatals by consolidating some and the outright scrapping of about 102 of such organisations.

In a reaction to the green light given by the finance minister to implement the report, the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) commended the federal government’s move, with Director-General of NECA, Dr. Timothy Olawale, calling it a “bold step.”

The decision to implement the report, THISDAY gathered, is part of the cost-saving measures being adopted by the federal government by slashing spending to cushion the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy.

Oronsaye, who was Head of Service (HOS) during the Jonathan administration, had chaired the committee set up 2011, which in 2012 submitted its report. Following its submission, a “White Paper on the Report of the Presidential Committee on Restructuring and Rationalisation of Federal Government Parastatals, Commissions and Agencies” was submitted to the administration in 2014.

However, with the 2015 elections looming at the time of the White Paper’s submission, the recommendations of the committee were never implemented and were confined to gather dust in the presidency.

Since President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office in 2015, there has been a clamour for his administration to implement the report. This was premised on Buhari’s election promise to run a lean government and eliminate wastages in government.

Nevertheless, for the federal government to effectively implement the policy, the legislature will need to amend or repeal some of the laws establishing some of the parastatals that have either been recommended for consolidation with other like agencies or outright abolition.

More so, some specific observations made by officials of the Jonathan administration on each of the recommendations in the White Paper may influence the implementation of the policy by the Buhari administration. Precisely, the then government in the White Paper rejected, noted or accepted the recommendations.

Speaking in a recent interview, Ahmed revealed that the president had approved the implementation of the report.

The minister said, “The Oronsaye report is a report that has reviewed the whole size of government and has made significant recommendations in terms of trimming and that is reducing the numbers of agencies and that would mean merging some agencies together.

“This is a report that has been in place for a long time but hasn’t been implemented. But the president has approved that it should be implemented and we have conveyed Mr. President’s approval to the arms of government responsible for this, and that will be the Office of Secretary to the Government of the Federation and the Office of the Head of Service.”

Providing further insight, the presidency source who pleaded anonymity, stressed that the federal government had outlined a plan to ensure that the process for implementation of the report is finalised by October.

He said the government was focused on ensuring that the outcome is reflected in the overhead costs of the affected ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs) in the 2021 fiscal plan.

The source explained, “The plan is to conclude it and the overheads to be reflected in the 2021 fiscal plan. The minister wants it concluded by October latest.

“We have some new agencies that have been established since 2014. We also need to take a second look at them and decide what to do. But really, the bulk of the job has been done in that Oronsaye report and so we would be pushing for its implementation.”

He stated that part of the plan was to merge the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Voice of Nigeria (VON), and Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) into a single entity to be called “the National Media and Broadcast Commission, with Executive Directors heading each of them.”

He added: “As we all know, the total funding government makes available to these agencies as single entities run into billions and half of that are mismanaged.”
Another presidency source also expressed hope that the Offices of Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Head of Service would expedite action on the report’s implementation.

“The SGF and HOS will have to move quickly on this to reduce the cost of governance at a time like this when revenue shortfall is growing by the minute,” the source stated, adding, “They have to act quickly on the directive, otherwise, there won’t be much progress.”

The Oronsaye report had made far-reaching recommendations that were expected to abolish 38 agencies, consolidate 52 agencies, reverse 14 agencies to departments in the relevant ministries, and discontinue government funding of professional bodies/councils.

The policy was to, among others, help to avoid duplication in governance structures, ensure effective implementation of decisions, help the federal government to save cost across all sectors, derive valuable contributions from board members, restrict membership of boards of parastatals to a moderate size of seven – except where a framework had been predetermined – and base appointment of members on competency and proven integrity.

Part of the recommendations in the White Paper was that the Federal Character Commission should be abolished and the constitution should be amended to reflect the abolition.

But this recommendation was rejected by the Jonathan administration and it had directed instead that the Federal Character Commission should be strengthened to perform its constitutional roles and functions.

The report also recommended that the Fiscal Responsibility Commission (FRC) should be abolished, as the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) was already empowered by the constitution to carry out its functions.

This recommendation was accepted and the government in the White Paper directed that the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice should initiate the abolition of the FRC.

The committee also recommended that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), and the Code of Conduct Bureau should be consolidated into a single agency, which was rejected by the federal government.

In addition, the committee recommended that the Infrastructure Concessionary and Regulatory Commission (ICRC) should be subsumed in the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), but the recommendation was rejected by the government.

Also, the committee had recommended that the Nigerian Atomic Energy Commission (NAEC) should be “properly located as a parastatal in the Ministry of Power, considering the immense need for the advancement of atomic energy in the country,” which the government also rejected.

The Oronsaye report further recommended that the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC), currently domiciled in the presidency, should be relocated to the Ministry of Trade and Investment and merged with the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) to synergise for management and utilisation of resources. The federal government in the White Paper noted the recommendation.

Under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the report recommended that the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) should take over the functions of the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution, while the law establishing the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution should be repealed. The government noted both recommendations in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Also, it stated that the Directorate of Technical Cooperation in Africa (DTCA) should be abolished and its functions, along with those of the Technical Aids Corps, transferred to an appropriate department in the ministry. This recommendation was accepted by the government.

For the Ministry of Health, part of the committee’s recommendations was that all the Federal Medical Centres should no longer be administered by governing boards, as the centres do not have enabling laws. It said each Federal Medical Centre should be administered through a strengthened, competent, professionalised management team, which will take over the responsibilities of the governing board. The recommendation was noted by the government.

Furthermore, it recommended the abolition of the Public Complaints Commission as well as the scrapping of the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC) and the transfer of its functions to the RMAFC. Both recommendations were also rejected by the government at the time.

The report recommended that the National Bureau of Statistics, Centre for Management Development, and Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic Research should be harmonised and there should be coordination of all data collection agencies for national development. This recommendation was noted by the government in the White Paper.

The committee recommended that the National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP) should be scrapped and its functions transferred to a new body that would emerge from the consolidation of the NDE and SMEDAN. In its comment, the government stated that it accepted the recommendation to scrap NAPEP only, but rejected the idea of merging NDE and SMEDAN.

It stated that the Utilities Charges Commission (UCC) should be abolished and its enabling law repealed, while its staff should be deployed to the Office of Head of the Civil Service of the Federation; and that the National Economic Intelligence Committee should be scrapped. This recommendation was welcomed by the government.

NECA Commends Move

The NECA director-general applauded the government’s decision to implement the report, saying, “It is indeed commendable that President Muhammadu Buhari has taken the bold step of approving the implementation of the Oronsaye report, about eight years after its submission to the last administration.

“Over the past years, we have reiterated that the implementation of the report is fundamental to the institutionalisation of operational efficiency and reduction of government expenditure in the long term. It is worrisome that with over 250 institutions, parastatals and agencies of government, the average cost of governance in Nigeria remains among the highest globally.”

Olawale advised that the report should not suffer the fate of the Ahmed Joda Panel Report and the Allison Ayida Report of 1995, which also made bold recommendations on the rationalisation of government agencies and parastatals but suffered a fatal fate due to lack of political will on the part of the government.

He stated, “All efforts must be made to see to a logical conclusion in the implementation of the Oronsaye report as directed by the president. The recent global economic downturn has proved that the country cannot afford the burden of wasted billions of naira and over-lapping roles of some of the ministries, departments and agencies that in reality hinder the ease of doing business.”

Olawale also advised the federal government to go beyond the implementation of the Oronsaye report to deliberately reduce other leakages, including those arising from too many aides of political office holders, which make no contribution to national development.

He called on the government to fast track the deregulation of the downstream oil sector, and pursue more vigorously the diversification of the economy, saying, “Herein lies our path to national economic and social renaissance.”