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A reform initiative for achieving good governance

I have always argued that the bane of good governance in Nigeria is the lack of public-accountability in our governance, caused by the absence of…

I have always argued that the bane of good governance in Nigeria is the lack of public-accountability in our governance, caused by the absence of an operation-control-device for monitoring and evaluating the administrative performance of our civil servants in the budgetary-process. This denies our elected officials critical information on strategies for policy coordination and feedback, which, in turn, breeds a perpetual lack of information for guiding coherent and systematic dialogue between elected officials and civil servants regarding problems and successes encountered in the public-service-delivery arena. This condemns our governance to a mere symbol rather than rational activity founded on explicitly organised knowledge which, in turn, breeds the characteristic resort of our governments to speculative and provisional fiscal-forecasting; spontaneous and sporadic administrative decision-making; and inability to track public-expenditures and assess policy impacts in the light of their set objectives.  

The existing scenario is one of poor-programme-coordination and inadequate information-flow issuing from our restriction of budgetary-information-management to post-hoc inspection of purely financial records. There is a total lack of specialists in institutional resource management for aggregating administrative performance information among officials charged with the budgeting responsibility. This denies our elected officials the critical analytical-database for reflecting the numerous decisions made by different officials at different times along with the multiple objectives of most public-policy statements. There is also the lack of a visibly credible means of setting budgetary objectives in terms of measurable-social benefits and controlled implementation. This breeds tunnel-vision wherein the experiences, life-style preferences and values of elected officials becloud the forecasting of public needs. Thus, denied a holistic-social perspective, narrow-view of public-needs guides our governance. Herein lies the bane of successive-governments’ efforts at poverty eradication; they fail to define ‘poverty from the viewpoint of the citizenry before articulating the ‘eradication’ antidote.  

Good governance requires elected officials to ride on the operation-control-device of public budgeting to achieve constant and consistent monitoring and evaluation of the civil service down to the field-level-units to serve as the building-blocks of the budgetary-structure. The activity-process thrives on an institutional-structure that originates from the Office of the President and Legislature, and spreads out to integrate all the sectorial-fields of civil-service-responsibility down the agency-hierarchy to the field-level of interaction with the citizenry. This breeds a coordinated-approach for conceiving and implementing all budgetary-objectives through a single but far-flung public-service-delivery-procedure that connects the government to the citizenry through effective control and deployment of the civil service. From herein will emerge Public-Accountability as Administrative-Performance-Auditing for accessing: accurate, up-to-date and timely-information from the civil service; rapid aggregation of activity-level-data to and from the field levels of interaction with the citizenry; and a policy-review-procedure that is flexible and present-oriented whilst focused on future decision-issues.  

To achieve this feat, the Executive MUST work very closely with the Legislature to initiate five administrative processes for driving government-budgeting.  

1)  Central coordination of the budgetary-practice from the office of the elected chief executive officer of governance (i.e. President/Governor).  

2)  Clarification of agency-funding-requests in terms of not only programme-categories but also efficiency and effectiveness of the administrative-performance of the specific agency.  

3)  Constant and consistent monitoring and evaluation of all government-spending for easy identification of their sources and uses through a coherent decision-making-process.  

4)  Decentralisation and opening-up of legislative-appropriation-practice through structural and procedural-innovations for asserting the initiative of the legislators vis-à-vis the president/governor in budgetary matters.  

5)  Executive-submission of three-budgetary-documents to the Legislature within the course of each year, namely; Regular-Budget-Proposal, Mid-Year-Performance-Evaluation-Report and Year-End-Performance-Evaluation-Report (a.k.a., “State-of-the-Nation-Address”). 

These innovations require the elected-officials to identify and isolate policy-coordination as a distinct activity from fiscal policy-making within government budgeting. On the one hand, they must establish economic-advisory-units in the Office of the President/Governor and Legislature to focus on the public-financial-management-task of regulating aggregate-government-demand for revenue and expenditure. On the other hand, they must establish administrative-performance-auditing units in the offices of the president/governor and minister/commissioner, and legislature as the operation-control-arms of the government. The latter will provide the coordinated-approach to the sectorial-fields of civil-service-responsibility to inject institutional-resource-management into our governance as the primary means of improving the quality of our social livelihood and rescuing our elected officials from the confusion of government-budgeting as merely public-financial-management.  

Overall, this reform initiative calls for total overhaul of the existing institutional-structure of governance to usher in a new public-service-delivery-process that is founded on the rule of good-governance. Herein, “rule of good-governance”, simply means “constant and consistent supply, coordination, aggregation and feedback of administrative-performance-information for guiding continuous and holistic decision-making interaction between elected officials and civil servants regarding problems and successes encountered throughout the public-service-delivery-arena”. This will birth a new approach to governance that is founded on: a deliberately-designed and properly-applied public-accountability-apparatus; and effectively-tamed and properly-deployed civil service. Thenceforth, that large complex organisation called, “Federal Government of Nigeria”, which must measure success in terms of improvement in the quality of our social-livelihood, would have acquired the requisite tool for doing a first-class job of public-service-delivery. Ultimately, the endemic public cynicism and perception of governance in Nigeria as morbidly-chaotic and uncontrollable, corruptive and unresponsive would begin to fade away and gradually disappear into the horizon.   

Ejikonye, Ph.D is a specialist in public budgetting and can be reached via emekaejikonye@gmail.com