By Otive Igbuzor
The 2015 General elections is scheduled to hold in February, 2015, a few weeks away. One of the key issues that political parties and candidates must address is how to improve public administration and deliver services efficiently and effectively to citizens of Nigeria.
Reform of Public Administration in Nigeria is imperative because it is the systems and processes through which the machinery of government operates.
Meanwhile, there are several challenges facing Nigerians especially in terms of provision of health services, education, transport, waste disposal, security, regulation and enforcement of legal duties.
Public Administration helps to put in place systems and processes that will help to deliver services to citizens. It is envisaged that by making core systems and processes more effective and by addressing specific delivery issues, we will have more capable government at all levels that is increasingly using transparency and accountability mechanisms to pursue delivery of service targets.
As service delivery solutions are implemented and core system improvements and accountability mechanisms are used, governments will act more responsively to deliver improved performance in some areas of public administration and service delivery.
It is no longer news that there is dysfunction in Public Administration in Nigeria leading to failures in service delivery, a lack of accountability and poor performance of the machinery of government. In order to put in place a strategy for public administration reform, it is necessary to identify the fundamental root causes of this dysfunction and identify the issues that need to be addressed taking into cognisance the root causes.
Some analysts have identified three main fundamental root causes for the dysfunction of public administration in Nigeria namely weaknesses in accountability; patronage and corruption and weaknesses in the machinery of government.
The weaknesses in accountability in Nigeria manifests in weakness of oversight institutions, weak external demand, lack of transparency, weak monitoring and evaluation and lack of internal control.
On patronage and corruption, it is well known and documented that corruption is widespread, deep and endemic in Nigeria. Nigeria has been consistently rated among the most corrupt countries in the world by Transparency International in its Corruption Perception Index.
In 2011, Nigeria was ranked 143rd out of 183 countries. In 2012, Nigeria was rated 139th out of 176 countries and in 2013, Nigeria was placed at the 144th position out of 177 countries. In the public sector, recruitment practices are susceptible to patronage and corruption. Several probes and committees have established that public procurement is a cesspool of corruption.
According to the Presidential Committee on review of reform processes in the public service 1999, “there is no functioning public service in Nigeria-we are operating a patronage system that destroys merit.” Weaknesses in machinery of government manifests in overlap and duplication of institutions; weak human resource management including misuse of the federal character principle; inappropriate appointment/posting; non-existent performance management; overlap and conflict between planning, policy and budgeting; lack of strategic focus on policy; poor Public Finance Management; weak capacity and poor strategic and operational management.
In order to address these weaknesses, there is the need to build capacity and implement change programmes in Human Resource Management, planning, policy co-ordination, public finance management, service delivery and accountability in budgetary matters. If these processes are improved with due process, professionalism, proper guideline and absence of discretion, then the space for patronage and corruption will be constricted.
There are several issues that require initiation or deepening of reforms and political parties and candidates seeking for office in the 2015 elections must address them. We shall examine some of the issues:
1. Cost of governance: It is well known that the cost of governance in Nigeria is very high. Over 70 percent of the federal budget is devoted to recurrent expenditure. The political and bureaucratic classes are over bloated. Cost of doing business with government is high. Most of the procurement in the public sector is inflated. Political parties and politicians need to tell Nigerians how they will address this.
2. Effective Budgeting: The budget is perhaps the most important instrument in any modern state apart from the constitution. The focus on budget has assumed greater prominence in recent years with increasing democratization, civil society participation and the desire to respond to the development challenge of poverty. Budgeting is very crucial for the economic development of any nation.
Good budgeting can lead to economic growth and development. But to prepare a good budget requires a responsible leadership, special staff assistance, broad, accurate and reliable information, complete plan, a financial calendar and effective monitoring and control over the execution of the budget plan. Meanwhile, the budget has been described as the most important document for the development of any country. It is the most powerful way that a government can meet the needs and priorities of the citizens.
The budget process is crucial to good development outcomes. Corruption in any country starts from the budgetary process. In very corrupt countries, the budget is done in secret. Releases are done without the knowledge of citizens. Procurement information is not made available to citizens and corruption is guarded and protected. Effective budgeting requires an open budget system.
A budget is regarded as open if citizens have access to the key budget documents; have high level of involvement in the budgetary process and have access to procurement information. The Open Budget Index 2012 scores Nigeria 16 out of 100 which is a poor rating of the quality of budgeting in Nigeria. Political parties and candidates need to tell Nigerians how they will institute an open budget system because democracy will be meaningless if the citizens do not participate in how government raise and spend money.
3. Public Finance Management: There is still opacity and lack of transparency in the oil and gas sector. Oil theft continues unabated despite the effort of government and security agencies. According to NEITI Audit report 2009-2011, Nigeria losses N578.990 billion annually to oil theft and NNPC owes government $5.8 billion from Liquefied Natural Gas which has not been paid into the federation account since 2006. There is still late releases of funds to ministries, departments and agencies. There is improper project design, costing, monitoring and audit. The end result is low capital budget implementation and unsatisfactory public expenditure outcomes. Political parties and politicians need to let Nigerians know how they will improve public finance management.
4. Civil Service Reform: In the civil service today, there is the culture of self-interest and patronage. The recruitment process does not supply the right people in the right numbers to the right places to meet the service needs of citizens. The civil servants are not managed, promoted or rewarded based on objective measures of performance. The end result is that the civil service functions as an employment mechanism and not a service delivery mechanism with the with over 70 percent recurrent expenditure. Consequently, there is poor delivery of public goods and services. Political parties and candidates need to let Nigerians know how they will reform the civil service.
5. Planning:There is no systematic planning framework for the country that ensures that adequate data and research, good information system, monitoring and evaluation and tracking of results. In addition, there is no integration of planning and budgeting. The end result is abandonment of projects, poor plan implementation and poor service delivery. For instance, it has been documented by the Presidential Assessment Committee report that 11, 886 projects worth N7.7 trillion have been abandoned across the country denying citizens of the benefits. Also, the Ajaokuta steel plant was planned in 1978/79 to be completed in 1986 at US$650m but government has spent over US$5 billion and it is not completed as a result of poor planning and corruption. Political parties and candidates need to tell us how they will change this scenario.
6. Policy:There is no process or criteria or mechanism for filtering policy ideas in the country. Policy proposals are often not evidence based because ideas that enter into the policy agenda are based on the private interest behind them. The result is that the policy ideas are not strategic and implementation do not give the desired result leading to wastage of resources due to duplication and failed programmes and projects. The World Bank Resource Allocation Index and Global Competitive Index rate Nigeria very poorly in terms of policy. Political parties and candidates need to tell us how they will turn the around the present state of policies in Nigeria which are insubstantial, incoherent, inconsistent and insufficiently aligned to strategic priorities identified in national development plans.
7. Sectoral Issues: The ministries, department and agencies (MDAs) in the different sectors such as Trade, agriculture, education, health, and security are expected to deliver government services to meet the needs of Nigerians. But the poor recruitment and posting, lack of motivation, poor allocation of resources and poor management has resulted in weak capacity, weak accountability and poor performance of the MDAs. Political parties and candidates need to tell Nigerians how they will change all these.
8. Constituency projects: Constituency projects constitute a huge challenge to organizational effectiveness in the public sector. Most of the projects are put in the budget without proper design and costing. The nature, location and choice of contractors for the projects are determined solely by political considerations. The end result is abandonment of projects, poor execution and poor service delivery to citizens. Political parties and candidates need to tell Nigerians how they will address constituency projects.
9. Corruption: As noted above, corruption is widespread and endemic in Nigeria. But we know that the problem of corruption is as old as society itself and cuts across nations, cultures, races and classes of people. It is undoubtedly one of the greatest challenges of our times leading to underdevelopment and poor service delivery in Nigeria. Corruption has a lot of negative consequences on every sphere of societal development whether social, economic or political.
Corruption not only leads to poor service delivery but loss of lives. Corruption is pervasive in Nigeria with serious negative consequences. Despite the plethora of legislations and agencies fighting corruption in the country, corruption has remained widespread and pervasive because of failure to utilize universally accepted and tested strategies; disconnect between posturing of leaders and their conduct; lack of concrete sustainable anti-corruption programming and failure to locate the anti-corruption struggle within a broader struggle to transform society.
Some scholars have recommended that the anti-corruption fight must be guided by legislative framework for transparent and accountable government; political will and commitment to fight corruption; comprehensive strategy that is systematic, comprehensive, consistent, focused, publicized, non-selective and non-partisan; protection of Whistle blowers; political reform to curb political corruption especially election rigging; reform of substantive programmes and administrative procedures; mobilisation for social re-orientation; independent media; adequate remuneration for workers to reflect the responsibilities of their post and a living wage; code of ethics for Political office holders, business people and CSOs; independent institutions especially electoral, human rights and gender commissions and a movement for Anti-corruption. Political parties and candiates must tell Nigerians how they will fight corruption.
Dr. Otive Igbuzor is a Pharmacist, Human Rights Activist, Policy Analyst, Development Expert and Strategist. He holds a doctorate degree in Public Administration and is Executive Director, African Centre for Leadership, Strategy & Development (Centre LSD).