- We welcome FG’s return to Oronsaye Report
News that the Federal Government is in the process of constituting a presidential committee to work out ways to implement recommendations of the Steve Oronsaye Panel’s Report on Rationalisation of Ministries, Agencies and Parastatals, submitted to President Goodluck Jonathan in April 2012, is a significant development in efforts of the Buhari administration to reduce the cost of governance at the federal level. Though coming eight years after the report was first submitted, the decision to implement recommendations of the committee is still a wise move in view of the many threats to the country’s economic wellbeing, especially in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
But we find it amazing that the decision is coming in the second year of President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term in office, given that the highlights of his campaign manifesto pledges in 2015 included the commitment of the candidate, if elected, to “restructure government for a leaner, more efficient and adequately compensated public service.” But good decisions do not necessarily lose quality because they come later than expected. We nonetheless welcome this development, especially at a time that the country’s economy (as well as its governance that drives the economy) requires reform, first to respond to immediate impact of the pandemic and second to prepare for a post-pandemic ethos, like many countries looking for solutions to new problems spawned by COVID-19.
Having taken this long for the Federal Government to reach this point, and in the event of increasing damage to the economy by the pandemic, speed of response becomes important for the committee charged with providing a blueprint for implementation of recommendations of the Oronsaye committee. The job of the committee has been substantially facilitated by specific recommendations of the panel and by some of the recommendations of the Itse Sagay-led Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) on cost of governance to reduce waste and corruption.
In view of the economic uncertainties of 2020, this assignment should not go beyond the time frame given to the implementation committee. This is not a season for any manner of temporising. We do not need to remind the committee to ensure speedy execution since its members already know the country’s economic condition. At this point in the country’s history, committee work should not be made to look like a political pork project or opportunity for jobs for the boys. The President already signalled the importance of cutting the cost of governance when he reduced expenses on international travels for public officers even before the pandemic.
The intention of the government to reduce cost of governance and the desire of citizens for cost-effective governance are not new. The Oronsaye report has been around for eight years for citizens and even lobbyists to discuss. Therefore, the pledge by the Minister of Labour: “It will not lead to job losses; the idea is to cut down on the cost of governance, running cost of those agencies, not the personnel cost” is timely, to reassure Labour unions of job security of their members. Further, the minister’s pledge should also discourage ubiquitous lobbyists and other self-appointed stakeholders from unnecessary lobbying to distract the committee and prevent it from working to deadline.
Moreover, implementing recommendations of the Oronsaye panel ought to enjoy full bipartisan support. The recommendations to reduce cost of governance started under a PDP president and have reached the stage of implementation under an APC president. A lesson not worth missing about the Federal Government’s decision to implement the Oronsaye recommendations is for governors to respond to the need to address wastage in governance at the subnational level.