• Administration Has Lost Focus — David-West
• Multiple Committees Diversionary — Erubami
• Why Launch Of Procurement Council Is Delayed, By Presidency
WHILE the initial body language of President Goodluck Jonathan gave the impression that he was averse to a bloated and wasteful government, the opposite seems to be the situation nine months into his administration.
To watchers of the polity, the government is becoming one of the heaviest bureaucracies of all times, piling up over 20 extra-ministerial committees, in addition to the huge number of ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).
Even the committee, set up under former Head of Service of the Federation, Steve Oronsaye, to prune the oversized bureaucracy, has been overtaken by more expansion in the system.
Consequently, there are worries that some of the committees/panels are going to do what other panels had completed, which the Presidency had failed to implement.
For instance, Mr. Parry Osayande, chairman of the Police Service Commission, had headed a panel that submitted the most comprehensive report on Police Reform some years ago. Various sub-committees had been set up to find funds for implementation of that report.
The same Osayande, as current chairman of the Police Service Commission, could be mandated to spearhead a reform without any presidential panel.
But today, he is heading another panel to reform the Nigeria Police.
There are fears, too, that some of the people appointed to serve on the numerous committees have been re-circled again and again, with some serving in more than three committees.
Reacting to The Guardian’s inquiries on over-bloating the bureaucracy, a number of Nigerians feel that the resort to committees by government is not only duplicitous, it is also a clear sign of impaired vision and a loss of focus.
Former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Prof. Tam David-West thinks government is missing the point by overcrowding the bureaucracy.
He said: “We have been crying that the cost of governance is too much. Our government is too heavy. The president said government is too heavy, but now see the contradictions.
“He’s setting up committees. He cannot talk with two tongues. To me, setting up these committees is absolutely irresponsible.
“We have this propensity, craziness of creating more and more structures and yet we say we want efficiency. The NNPC, during my time (as minister), had six sectors.
“Saudi Arabia, which produced eight million barrels (of oil) per day then, had just two companies.”
Comrade Mashood Erubami, chair of the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), thinks the idea is diversionary.
He said: “The idea of proliferating committees is not a problem-solving one, nor is it a well-intentioned device to alleviate the past frustrations of Nigerians from the policies of his (President Jonathan’s) predecessors.
“The idea is more of a smart way of diverting the attention of the masses from the consequential ordeal that naturally accompanies the burdens associated with the anti-human policies of the government.
“What can you make from a government (president) that promised reinvestment of expected revenue from the withdrawal of oil subsidy and has started retracing its step without implementing the promise?”
Top sources close to government say it is an embarrassment that the legislature has turned the cabinet into a punching bag, summoning ministers on a daily basis to explain actions and inactions of government.
However, the federal government has explained why it is taking this long to constitute the Council on Public Procurement, a move that is seen by anti-corruption advocates as stalling efforts to enthrone due process in public procurement.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Rueben Abati, told The Guardian last night that the omnibus council could not be inaugurated, as it was, because there was a contradiction in the nexus between the power of the highest decision-making body, the Executive Council of the Federation and the National Council on Procurement established by an Act of the National Assembly (2007).
He said: “The Office of the President has noted the Resolution of the House of Representatives on the imperative of inaugurating the National Council on Procurement. However, the main issue the Council has not been inaugurated is not far to seek.
“Government has proposed an amendment to the Public Procurement Act 2007. The reason for this proposed amendment is that there is a contradiction in the law that sets up the Council that has a member of the Federal Executive Council, the Minister of Finance, as the chairman.
“But there is a rule in the book that the Council cannot approve certain level of contracts, without the Federal Executive Council’s endorsement. But the law now says the Council should approve anything.”
Abati queried: “How can a Council, headed by a member of the FEC, be more powerful than the FEC that produces the Minster? There is a contradiction there that the proposed amendment seeks to remove for it to be functional.
“An example is this: Can the Procurement Council approve one trillion Naira worth of contracts? It is the same Minister of Finance that heads the Council that will pay. How can that work?”
The presidential spokesperson said the amendment to the Procurement Act would take care of certain levels of contracts that will go to the Federal Executive Council.
He recalled that under former President Umaru Yar’Adua, who signed the law, the Council was not inaugurated for three years.
“The reason was the same; the law could not be implemented,” he said. “The Federal Executive Council has the final say on certain level of contracts. That is the contradiction in the Act that has to be eliminated.
“What is the work of the FEC set up by the Constitution? Can the Act be higher than the Constitution? That is the trouble with the Council,” he said.