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‘Audit of assets, resource implications’ — Joe Abah outlines steps for implementing Oronsaye report

Joe Abah, a former director-general of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR), has outlined steps for the effective implementation of the Oronsaye report.

The Stephen Oronsaye report focuses on the restructuring of federal government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).

On February 26, the federal government announced the implementation of the Oronsaye report to reduce the cost of governance.

The Bola Tinubu-led administration said 30 agencies will be merged; nine agencies will be subsumed under existing agencies; and four agencies will be relocated from their current ministries.

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On March 7, the federal government set up a 10-member committee to implement the decisions on mergers, abolitions, subsummations and relocations of agencies in 12 weeks.

In a report published by Agora Policy, Abah said it would be difficult to find a direct assessment approach, as many agencies did not exist at the time the report was first published in 2012.

He said the 12-week ultimatum for the implementation of the report may be insufficient, as most of the affected agencies were established by acts of national assembly, which would require legislative amendment.

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“The merger of agencies is not very common, particularly as most agencies are set up by enabling legislative acts. To merge them, you would need to repeal the laws of the agencies you are merging and enact a new law,” he said.

“In some cases, there may even be a need for constitutional amendment, which is a much difficult undertaking.”

The former director-general said the government needs to put in place a merger committee for each agency to be merged, and ensure the purpose of the unification is properly outlined.

He asked the government to develop budgets for the purpose, adding that mergers are usually costly to implement.

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He further said the government needs to ensure proper audit of assets, utilisation of staff and revision of mandates, management arrangements and organisational structures for effective implementation.

Abah recommended staff audit, post-merger implementation tasks and new legislation as factors to be considered before the report is implemented.

‘THE PUBLIC SHOULD BE SENSITISED’

He added that “government should realise that mergers are complex endeavours that require time, expertise, planning and resources. Mergers cost money and there is a need to provide a budget for the exercise”.

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“In addition to the 10-member committee announced by the government, it would be important to set up merger committees for each agency that is to be merged,” he said.

“There is a need to sensitise the public about what is realistically achievable in the 12 weeks that the 10-member committee has been given.

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“It would be prudent to allow a minimum of six months if things are to be done properly. There should be an immediate independent audit of assets, as well as staff audits, of all the agencies affected.

“There should be a review of mandates, management arrangements and organisational structures to ensure that the new organisations that emerge are appropriately sized and fit for purpose.

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“There is a need to rationalise staffing. This should be done sequentially, starting with redeploying people to other parts of the public service where their skills may be needed.

“However, it would be better to be upfront with the public and the trade unions that some people would have to go. Efforts should be made to offer enhanced packages for people to go, first on a voluntary basis.

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“The process for subsuming agencies under other agencies, relocating them to new ministries or abolishing them should use the same principles, including audit of assets, staff audits and rationalisation of staff.

“The office of the secretary to the government of the federation should improve on its record keeping, particularly for important reports like the Joda, Ayida and Oronsaye reports, and ensure that they are posted online for ease of access.”

He added that the plan to merge government agencies is a welcome idea but warned of the complexity of the process and resource implications.

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