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Toward A New Nigeria (3) : Buhari Should Trim Government Fats To Bare Bones By Bayo Oluwasanmi

April 27, 2015

Nigeria is near bankruptcy. The outgoing government of President Goodluck Jonathan acts in a fashion that would drive any private enterprise into bankruptcy.


While the private sector is tightening its belt and learning to live with a myriad of new cost cutting and saving devices, the Jonathan and previous administrations adamantly refused to address the insolvency and thousands of redundancies across all government departments.

Hardest of all the immediate litmus tests for the incoming Buhari administration will be finding the political will to curb the profligacy of the federal government. For 16 years, the PDP led federal government has become a byword for mendacity, secrecy, and profligacy with the taxpayers' money. Profligacy among state governments is also rampant.

If we're going to get serious as a nation about addressing our profligacy, the Buhari administration has the best shot to trim government fats and cut the waste to bare bones. One of the tasks that President-elect Muhammadu Buhari will face is for him to take a multi agency enterprise approach to the way his government handles major public policy goals like reducing joblessness, improving health care, education, security, etc.

Once the various departments/ministries are manned by creative and efficient mangers a k a ministers, Buhari should constitute his cabinet into what is known as the President Management Council (PMC). The PMC should identify goals and the agencies responsible for meeting them.

Each department should have a score card of quantitative and qualitative performance objectives that commit the departments involved into tangible, visible, and verifiable outputs and outcomes. For example, each budget for each department/agency/ and for what purpose must be verified that the money is spent for what it was earmarked. The PMC will oversee the implementation and the strategic performance plan. For instance, what's the responsibility of minister for water resources when Nigerians rely on bore holes for drinking water. What happens to the budget of that department?

The PMC will put together portfolios of federal government programs that match with a particular policy priority. The portfolio approach will illuminate the strengths and weaknesses of existing programs and identify duplication, redundancies, as well as gaps.

The president should appoint goal leaders within the departments  to head up cross-agency policy priorities, charging them with the responsibility of tracking progress. In addition, the president should establish the office of evaluation within the department of Budget and Management to assess department/agency performance. The office of evaluation will conduct program assessments to measure the progress being made.

The need to retool the federal civil service cannot be stressed enough in order to better meet the demands presented by a modern multi department/agency approach to government. An enterprise civil service system is highly recommended. A civil service system that will improve the ability of the various departments to recruit and retain our nation's best and brightest brains.

A snapshot of fats that can be trimmed from the over bloated, overlapping, and  many other redundancies from  federal bureaucracy:

1.Reduce the number of ministers. Abolish junior ministers of state. Cut down the number of special advisers/senior assistant special advisers and what have you. After all the so called advisers are in reality political hacks. The United Sates is the largest and the most complex bureaucracy in the world. The cabinet includes the Vice-President and the heads of 15 executive departments – the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Justice, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs

2.Scrap overlapping/duplicated/redundant departments and agencies.

3.Reduce salary of senators and reps and make it competitive to what obtains in other parts of the civilized world. Take away all the criminally over generous perks i.e. housing allowance, wardrobe allowance, sitting allowance, and all other outrageous allowances. This will make politics uninviting and unrewarding and put an end to politics of “do or die.”

4.Sell off the presidential jet fleet, official cars for ministers, agencies, and departments. Let every minister and top officials purchase their own vehicles. The ministers and top government functionaries should drive themselves. As a US senator for 30 years, Vice-President Joe Biden of the US traveled by train everyday from his home state of Delaware to Washington DC to perform his senate duties.

5.Abolish governors security vote and their over compensated pensions. By the way, can any one explain or define for me the nebulous term “security vote”?

6.Halt all wasteful overseas junketing and social jamborees of ministers, senators, reps, and top officials. Their assignment is here a home  - in Nigeria – not in America or Britain or Canada and so on.

7.Revoke all oil bloc licenses given to individual Nigerians as gifts or purchased at basement prices by people with connection to political god fathers and god mothers. The oil is a God given blessing for the general good of 170 million Nigerians and for overall development of our country.

8.Stop awarding the same contract for services, projects, and road construction over and over and over again. For instance, the construction of Lagos-Ibadan express road has been awarded for the umpteenth time and who knows when it will be finally completed?

9.Abolish both Muslim and Christian Pilgrims Welfare Board. Let prospective pilgrims arrange their own pilgrimage to Mecca or Jerusalem. It's their private spiritual responsibility and they should bear the financial burdens. Keep government out of religion!

Government is a serious business and it should be run as such. One of the worst-run businesses in the world is the federal government of Nigeria. The federal government is in financial disarray. It spends more than it makes and its investments are not based on sound financial principles.

The federal government should assess all of its employees including ministers according to their work flow, production, and output. If any employees are not pulling their weight, they should be fired. But what we find over the years is that it is almost impossible to lose your job if you work for the federal government of Nigeria. This is not how a business is run.

The Buhari administration could learn lean government from a successful story of a lean business model. Lean manufacturing can be traced back 100 years to the production lines of Henry Ford. Henry Ford's vision was to “build a car for the great multitude.”

Substituting electricity for previously steam driven machinery compared with new management and production techniques, and attracting some of the most innovative mechanics some of whom developed the moving assembly line, enabled Ford to reinvent 20th century mass production to a new level and to produce a Model T Ford car in only 93 minutes. His Model T was within the reach of the average  man. Buhari should make Ford's book “Today, and Tomorrow” published in 1926 and republished in 2003 a must read for his ministers and managers of departments and agencies.

Today's government as we know is now so complex and difficult, the survival and success of government so hazardous in an environment increasingly unpredictable and fraught with danger, that its continued existence depends on the mobilization of every ounce of intelligence.

Buhari should make government simpler, friendlier, and relevant to our citizens by improving the quality of governance in terms of accessibility, proximity, and better service delivery. His administration should identify and repeal archaic laws and practices, redundancies and remove the non-value-added waste that lead  to bureaucratic red tape and inefficiency.  

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