THE President Muhammadu Buhari administration has continued to show conflicting signals about its touted drive to reduce the cost of governance in line with our dwindling economic resources.
When he came to power in 2015 ahead of a recession, he reduced the number of federal ministries from 42 to 36. He banned some frivolous practices such as the distribution of gifts and souvenirs at public events. He cut down travelling by political appointees and top bureaucrats and also pared down travel allowances. The regime has not quite told the Nigerian public exactly how much had been saved from these cost-cutting measures.
We had expected more radical steps to be taken towards effectively reducing the load of recurrent expenditure, which takes at least 70 per cent of our federal budget annually. This could have been achieved if Buhari’s government had fulfilled its campaign promise of massively devolving powers to the states to concentrate on core areas of federal competence.
Unfortunately, some of these cost-cutting measures have been reversed since Buhari was sworn-in for a second term. For instance, the president created five new ministries in August 2019 and split the Ministry of Works, Power and Housing into two.
Federal lawmakers have also developed a penchant for proposing the creation of new departments and agencies to implement nearly every bill they propose for enactment into law. The latest confusing action comes in the form of government’s intention to create a new anti-graft body to be known as the Proceeds of Crime Recovery and Management Agency, PCRMA.
According to the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, who brought a memo to the Federal Executive Council on Wednesday, September 17, 2020 to that effect, the new body will warehouse recovered government funds and assets which are currently scattered among various government agencies.
How serious is this regime in cutting down the size and cost of governance when it is at the same time creating more of same? October 2020 had been pencilled down as the deadline for the implementation of the Oronsaye Report of 2014, which, according to government, will see to the scrapping of at least 102 out of the over 500 Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs.
This proposed new agency is not only contradictory to this government’s policy, it is also insensitive to our economic realities. How can we be removing subsidy on petrol and increasing electricity tariffs due to dwindling revenues while also creating new government agencies to guzzle scarce funds?
We believe that these recovered public funds and assets can be competently warehoused in the Central Bank and managed by existing bodies such as the Asset Management Corporation, AMCON.
This seemingly confused habit of policy handling must stop.