Policy Briefs

Policy Brief No. 24-3 | Implementing Oronsaye Report – No Walk in the park..

The recent decision by the incumbent administration in Nigeria to implement the 12 year old Oronsaye Report, seems a convenient policy afterthought. Certainly, you cannot effectively implement such a reform, when you have instituted an over bloated bureaucracy. Yet the recommended civil service reform is long overdue. Understandably, implementation of the report remains topical since it featured in the 2023 presidential elections, for some candidates but not for others.

Inevitably, the present and future federal administrations in Nigeria will need to grapple with the nation’s over bloated federal bureaucracy as a means of cutting cost of governance. It will require uncanny courage. As with fighting corruption, vested interests will fight back.

We are aware that the inclusion of the implementation of the Oronsaye Report as a top policy priority option in the Obi-Datti 2023, presidential manifesto, required deep out of the box thinking. For its long term value, the devil in the reform report were inherent in its known and presumed implementation details.

In its totality, the Oronsaye Report is not just about downsizing and making over bloated federal government much more nimble and effective. It called for discipline, both fiscal and administrative; and very deep and excruciatingly painful surgical cuts. Institutional rationalization and mergers were the easiest parts. We had likened the proposed reform to colonoscopy: it required preparation, would be scary and painful, but ultimately, a life saver.

The challenge in implementing the report explains why two previous administrations – Jonathan and Buhari – dodged implementing it. In fact, both President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and President Muhammadu Buhari had on record, respectively directed that the report should be implemented. Expectedly, vested political and bureaucratic interests within both administrations scuttled the presidential directive. Some felt it was not exigent to implement the report. That may yet again be the case.

Regarding the report, Peter Obi, understood the challenges at hand, and was committed and set to hit the ground running, by driving that reform report as the underpinning ethos of his cutting cost of governance mantra. He spoke incessantly about such far-reaching reform. That was not to be. Because Peter ObI’s implementation modalities are proprietary and privileged information, this policy brief will not dwell on them.

The salient numbers inherent in the full implementation of the Oronsaye report are huge. Of the 929 MDAS currently within the federal government budgeting ambit, 52 will be merged; and 38 abolished. Of the statutory agencies, which now exceed the 263 listed in the report, over 100 are supernumerary institutions; not backed by law or reason. They are at best, SPVs that were sustained by opaque institution-building and at worse, served as conduits, for siphoning or channeling slush resources, including political campaign finance resources. The recommendation to reduce agencies in this cadre to 161, is still pertinent, but the redaction needs to be far more expansive to be of any value. The recommended 14 agencies to be reversed to departmental status now stand at 19. The reversal will be of utility but intrusive oversight will be imperative.

Two things are not easily discernible in the report: the scope of political will needed to bring the reform to fruition, and the spillover effect on the other two tiers of government. Federal Ministries and agencies naturally have State counterparts as interlocutors. How to decouple and disentangle these corresponding arrangements, might inevitably stall the reform. It will be delusional to think that the latter is not important.

What this reform needs to underline is the efficacy and independence of statutory agencies. These can no longer be run or coveted as fiefdoms by greedy and ambitious ministers, the COS or SGF. Constitutional dictates protecting Statutory agencies and appointees must be adhered to. Strong Executives not cronies and minions will need to be appointed.

The implementation of the reform report will not be a walk in the park. If the decision to implement the Oronsaye Report is a political ploy, without the requisite think through,it will fail woefully. Money will be saved in the long term, but money will be required in the immediate to make the reform seamless and effective.

It is uncertain, if the present Administration has the wherewithal to pull this reform off. For now, the desire to implement the Oronsaye Report seems divine, with an escathological promise: yet all it amounts to is a policy directive and option flying on a wing and lots of prayers.

Oseloka Obaze, MD & CEO

Oseloka Obaze, MD & CEO

Mr. Obaze is the former Secretary to the State Government of Anambra State, Nigeria from 2012 to 2015 - MD & CEO, Oseloka H. Obaze. Mr. Obaze also served as a former United Nations official, from 1991-2012, and as a former member of the Nigerian Diplomatic Service, from 1982-1991.

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