*Asks them to shun bickering
By Daniel Idonor
ABUJAâ€”THE Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday, handed down a riot act to the newly appointed ministers, just as he gave directives to them on business of governance.
Yesterdayâ€™s meeting of the Executive Council of the Federation, EXCOF, was devoted to the orientation of newly sworn-in ministers on procurement guidelines and related matters. The orientation of the cabinet members is coming on the heels of perceived friction and bickering that had existed between ministers and their permanent secretaries who are accounting officers of their respective ministries.
Vanguard gathered that as part of deliberate plans to ensure that there exists a harmonious working relationship between civil servants and political office holders, the Acting President approved that theÂ meeting be used to orientate the new appointees on standard practices as far as due process is concerned.
Briefing State House Correspondents, the Minister of Information and Communication, Mrs. Dora Akunyili, with the Minister of State, Mr. Labaran Maku, Head of Service of the Federation, HOSF, Mr. Steve Oronsanye and the Director-General of the Bureau of Public Procurement, BPP, Mr Emeka Eze, said the meeting was to brief stakeholders on governmentâ€™s expectation on due process.
The Head of Service said: â€œThe code of conduct is the same for everybody. What we did was to bring out certain rules and regulations to their attention and did advise that they should be conversant with these rules and regulations because the permanent secretaries who are the accounting officers will always play by the rules.
â€œYou will find out, if you come with a certain perception or expectation, and that expectation may be real, you may be constrained by the rules and regulations and you become frustrated. So, it was thought that from the very beginning these rules should be placed squarely before them so that they know what it is until those rules are changed if they do not meet the intention of government.â€
Bickering between ministers
He said: â€œThe relationship between ministers and ministers of state came up during the discussion because it is a very important factor in ensuring that we work amicably to ensure that we deliver the dividends of democracy to the good people of this country. But I want us to know remember that this problem actually depends on individuals.
â€œThey are not created per se by the job; they are created by the individual. When individuals decide to work with one another as a family knowing that they are working for the same people, the same government, the same country, friction shouldnâ€™t really arise. So we believe that this time around, those differences that were noticed would be sorted out since we have started the discussions today. In the future we are going to come up with more details.â€
Information minister, Akunyili, said: â€œThere is nothing in writing which says that because we are from the same zone or state people cannot man the same ministry. But as much as is practically possible, we try not to put people from the same zone or state together but the time has come when we should also have confidence in ourselves.
â€œWhen we believe that we are from the same state, we should be able to live above board but there is nothing today in writing in our rules which states that if you are from the same state you cannot be together. Of course we recognize the principles of federal character. All of these will be taken into consideration but at this point in time I am not thinking of that because ministers have to settle down fast.â€
Sanctions for non compliance
Akunyili added: â€œWhat we did today was simply to bring the rules and regulations on the table. There are sanctions already prescribed for those who do not comply with the rules and regulations and these are not just for ministers but also for permanent secretaries, for civil servants and for all of us.
â€œWhat is important is to have the courage to do what is right. If somebody has erred, it is for you to make a formal report instead of covering and where you do not make a formal report then such wrong will remain covered. So, anyone who errs provided it is brought to oneâ€™s attention, the appropriate penalty prescribed will be applied.â€