HIGH cost of governments has remained an issue with the blames located mainly in the billions spent in maintaining the 468-member National Assembly. The debates should be more extensively to include other areas of government wastes, at all levels.
The two-year-old advice of the Presidential Advisory Council, PAC, for reduction in the number of Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs to address the issue has been ignored. It probably cost the PAC its life.
Ministries and agencies remain fertile soil for political patronage. As opportunities diminish in States and Local Governments, the federal pool is the only one with resources to accommodate an increasing number of unemployed politicians. More ministries and government agencies exit to meet demands for political appointments.
Political expediency overrules economics. Ministers fight over their status and size of their ministries. The argument, leaning on constitutional provisions on equality of States, hammers on the absence of equity in subjugating one State to another by appointing junior ministers. The political solution lies in 36 federal ministries, each with sufficient resource base to appease politicians.
More costs arise from the ease with which the National Assembly creates agencies. Little thought is given to financial implications of laws that expand bureaucracy. Each new commission or department of government adds to the cost of governance. However, these agencies hardly improve government services. They result in additional tension as government battles with appointments and political correctness in that direction.
If we take the anti-corruption agencies as example, government’s reluctance in curbing waste will be more glaring. There was the Code of Conduct Bureau, then Independent Corrupt and other Offences Practices Commission and finally the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. Their roles clash. Most petitioners patronise all three on the same issue. Governments have neglected calls for their merger though with strong assertions for more efficiency in costs and operations. Similarly, some commissions should be departments within ministries.
Other wastes are in the unlimited number of aides for the president, governors, and spurious appointments like Chief of Staff and Chief Security Officers for local government chairmen. There are more such appointments like aides for special duties.
The N15.6 trillion governments spent between May 1999 and December 31, 2010 to maintain public servants tells only a part of the story of wastes. It does not capture savings that would have been made on capital expenditures if some ministries and agencies did not exist.
Governments need to act fast in order to rescue shrinking resources for investments in critical development needs like infrastructure. It is also important for our governments to start planning their expenditures in anticipation of a time when oil income that funds these wastes would have gone.