24 Jun 2015

Cutting The Cost Of Governance

That almost all public office holders in the last 16 years have collectively institutionalised unbearable high cost of governance in the country is an understatement.

And it is a trend that must stop. An appetite for greed, selfishness and corruption aided by loose financial control has led to an impoverishment of the people.

As this tendency for profligacy has been rising over the years, reports the other day, that President Muhammadu Buhari, his deputy, some governors and a few other public office holders may slash their own salaries and allowances and cause same to be effected for all other political appointees, is a step in the right direction, especially with the dwindling economic fortunes of the country. The savings from this exercise may not be much, but the symbolism is laudable.

A Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission’s (RMAFC) statement about the same time on its preparedness to review the remuneration law to align with the current realities of dwindling revenue, particularly from oil, may have also reinforced the new administration’s resolve to chart a fresh course in public spending.

Hopefully, wearied Nigerians would likely gain from these measures, if they are well intentioned and coordinated. But the expected gains from the proposed pay cuts must not end up servicing the interests of a few persons in public office.

If anything, it should be seen as a case of officials also making sacrifices for the nation, the people having been tasked to their limit and cannot bear new burdens.

A reassessment is certainly desirable. What is needed though, is a clean break from the past where the privileged few pillaged the treasury.

Given his antecedents, frugality, what he represents, and particularly his resolve to breathe a fresh air into governance, President Buhari can be taken for his words.

Indeed, he may have made a statement on his low profile in his request to the Senate for just 15 special advisers – down from the regime of 23 and accompanying special assistants that obtained in the immediate past dispensation. The country will certainly be better for it if he succeeds, but he needs to carry the people along.

He may also have to go for, among others, a cut in the bogus provisions in the State House budget and aides’ remuneration, while leveraging the report of the Oronsaye Presidential Committee on the Rationalisation and Restructuring of Federal Government Parastatals, Commissions and Agencies.

Happily, the RMAFC (it prescribes salaries and allowances for certain categories of top public officials in line with constitutional mandate) has said it would factor in prevailing economic realities “and the need to reduce (the) burgeoning cost of governance so as to free more funds for development”.

In this effort, it said it will be guided by the Remuneration Act of 2008. More cheering is the news that a committee has been inaugurated “to holistically review existing Remuneration Act; identify areas of wastage and abuse; examine the implementation of the monetisation policy by MDAs and advise on appropriate remuneration for the work they do”.

The RMAFC says it will be considering a more global approach to arrive at a decision, including the rate of inflation, shortcomings of the Remuneration Act 2008, etc. Essentially, the committee will rightly look at the justification of pay in relation to inputs at work.

The commission promised: “When we conclude, whatever we decide for the legislators is final…but the executive’s will go through the legislative process.”

However, it will be interesting if the RMAFC will have the guts to publish the total pay, including allowances and sundry allocations of legislators. They are known to be running humongous bills in multiples of millions monthly and the highest in the world on the state, and they have defied all pressures on fairness, equity, openness and accountability. The 8th National Assembly must come to equity on this issue, with clean hands.

The country is in dire financial straits at present, a fact that supports the argument for a downward review in political office holders’ pay structure.

Reason should prevail, therefore, in an economy that cannot support N18,000 minimum wage structure for public workers but can conveniently pay millions of naira monthly to a supposedly part-time lawmaker.

The reality on ground demands a savings culture while plugging wastages. Cost-saving devices must be officially institutionalised henceforth, just as accountability is made a priority.

Again, government must tear down the infrastructure of corruption, that is, those easy means of enrichment that individuals exploit for their selfish ends. Corruption has become a monster and a way of life across board in the country because the civil service has been affected and destroyed.

This country must do without a system that encourages stupendous severance allowances and or pension to every man who happened to occupy the office of a state governor or other political offices for that matter.

The world has learnt a lot from the Singaporean experience that has established a connection between the economy and official earnings. Nigeria must also learn from the globally acclaimed model.

To give vent to that for example, would demand that the RMAFC publishes the salaries and allowances of all categories of public officials, most especially the politicians, on a regular basis. Accountability and responsibility begin with openness.

Credit: Nigerian Guardian

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