Govt begins overhaul of varsities, bureaucracy

Anyim-Pius-Anyim_copyNTA, FRCN, VON to fuse

FRSC, NOSDRA, NESREA may get new status

Audit of tertiary education coming

ALMOST a year after he introduced the transformation agenda, which implementation so far remains but unimpressive, there are strong indications that the Goodluck Jonathan administration is now set to do the right thing.

In fact, there is a feeling of excitement among members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) and top officials of the federal bureaucracy that the season of perceived complacency and absence of sense of urgency in the Jonathan Presidency is over.

The core elements of the new initiative as revealed to The Guardian are the overhaul of the country’s tertiary education system, scrapping or merging of agencies performing same or overlapping functions, and a significant cut down in budgetary allocation to current expenditure in favour of capital spending.

It was also learnt that based on a document derived from the recommendations of a series of committees on how to make the bureaucracy work better, agencies, which have been unable to deliver services to Nigerians, may be scrapped.

The document, substantially rely on the report of the Steve Oronsaye’s committee, which might be submitted to the government this week.

In the interim report, the panel proposed that agencies such as the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), National Environmental Regulation and Enforcement Agency (NESREA) and others in the Ministry of Environment be restructured to assume new status and under new supervisory ministries and agencies for optimal performance and cost effectiveness.

Similarly, the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) and the Voice of Nigeria (VON) may come under the umbrella of Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) with a Director-General as it is with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).

It was also learnt that the National Communications Commission (NCC) and the NBC might be merged in the new dispensation.

Presidency sources said that the President is in a hurry to receive the report, which forms a significant part of the transformation agenda, which had not been documented since May 29, 2011 when Jonathan assumed office.

A top government official disclosed that the document would be submitted shortly by Steve Oronsaye’s presidential committee on reform of government agencies.

It was however not clear when the Adamu Fika Presidential Committee set up in March 2011 would submit its report. The panel unofficially tagged “Reforming the Reform” did not include the Permanent Secretary, Dr. Tunji Olaopa, in the Bureau of Public Service Reform (domiciled statutorily in the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) office, even as a member.

Olaopa, until recently the Permanent Secretary, State House, then in the Office of Head of Service, was appointed Secretary of the Fika panel but was later dropped allegedly on the advice of the powerful committee.

The Fika Committee and the Dr. Lateef Adegbite Committee on Security were inaugurated by the President on Thursday, March 31, 2011 when he was still Acting President. The Fika Committee was set up on the advice of the then SGF, Alhaji Yayale Ahmed, with the original purpose to reverse the tenure policy (for permanent secretaries and directors) of the Umaru Musa Yar’Adua administration.

Top public functionaries told The Guardian at the weekend that the reform of agencies panel report was significant to the administration’s resolve to reform the convoluted public sector, now seen as a major drain-pipe and haven of corruption.

They said the finance ministry and the Presidency were quite concerned about public expenditure profile of the government that put recurrent expenditure in the 2012 budget at 72 per cent while capital project expenditure attracted a paltry 28 per cent in an economy bereft of critical infrastructure.

The Jonathan administration, they declared, was serious in its resolve to scrap “redundant agencies” because “they do not add value to public service but continue to draw salaries and other allowances.”

According to them, the presidential panel has listed all the “redundant agencies” and others, which functions overlap and had recommended them for scrapping.

This aspect of the report is similar to that of Gen. Theophilus Danjuma Committee, which was dissolved late last year. The panel had recommended lean government to reduce its over-bloated expenditure.

The government is also working on the report of the Prof. Anya O. Anya Technical Committee on Review of Budgetary Allocation to Recurrent Expenditure, which it submitted on Monday, April 4, 2011. The Anya panel was inaugurated in September 2010.

The Oronsaye report is expected to contain the cost implications of running the agencies that may be affected, in this connection.  The Guardian learnt from sources at the bureaucracy and political wings of the federal secretariat that the Reform of Agencies Committee held consultations with almost all tertiary institutions on the near collapse of universities and polytechnics in the country.

The best 10 universities in Africa in the current index are in South Africa and Egypt. University of Cape Town tops in the continent while the University of Cairo is third, Rhodes University, South Africa occupies the ninth slot while The American University in Cairo is Number 10.

Curiously, even the University of Ibadan (UI), which used to be fourth in the Commonwealth, is number one in Nigeria and number 30 in Africa.

Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia is number 31 while the University of Benin (UNIBEN) is number 32 in Africa and the University of Lagos (UNILAG) is number 38 and the University of Ilorin (UNILORIN) until recently number one in Nigeria and number 40 in the continent.

Faced with this stark reality, the government is, however, optimistic that the report of the panel, alleged to have detailed the rot in the system, has promised to faithfully implement it.

Official sources said the interim report, which the government had studied, showed that the university governance system requires a comprehensive reform to the extent that the personnel expenditure had been identified as the major drain-pipe of the lean resources.

For instance, the universities’ main administration and indeed the teaching hospitals have been taking the bulk of the expenditure on the tertiary education sector while “capital projects” have been under-funded.

The interim report also revealed that most of the academic staff had been unable to access billions of naira of research funds domiciled in the Tertiary Education Fund (TertFund) formerly Education Trust Fund (ETF).

Anyim had hinted last week that the government might stop funding university education. It was not clear at press time whether the policy hint is a derivative or leak from the report.

Some of the revelations in the interim report showed that UI’s personnel cost yearly is N12.72 billion while overhead cost is N300 million and capital spending stands at N450 million.

For UNILAG, the personnel cost is N9.81 billion, overhead (N192 million), and capital (N450 million).

The situation at the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) is not entirely different. The school has a personnel expenditure of N11. 22 billion, overhead (N254 million), and capital (N500 million).

UNIBEN spends N12.30 billion on personnel, overhead (N188 billion, and capital (N400 million).

Similarly, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria has a personnel cost of N12 billion, overhead N250 million, and capital (N400 million). Same for teaching hospitals, for instance:

At the University of Ibadan Teaching Hospital, the personnel cost is N9 billion, overhead (N240 million), and capital (N322 million).

Also, Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, personnel attracts N8.52 billion, overhead (N186 million), and capital (N305 million).

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