17 June 2012

Nigeria: Okorocha, No to Commercialisation of MDAs


The administration of Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, from inception, gave the hint that it was not averse to controversies. Starting from the appointment of a record 92 special assistants, the introduction of what it called the fourth tier of government, the commercialisation of ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to the relocation of Imo State University, the governor has remained in the eye of the storm.

Even now, his decision to backload civil servants to their local government area of origin has pitted him against organised labour. He calls all these "revolution". The people of the state call them "showmanship bereft of statecraft".

The decision to commercialise government offices, to most, is imagination run wild. But his commissioner for information, Dr. Obinna Duruji, claimed that it was informed by the desire to raise the bottom line of the average MDAs in Imo State, boost their activities with a commercial orientation and make them self-sustaining so as to avoid depending on subvention.

But what happens to the subvention so saved with the alleged level of kleptomania in official circles? Maybe the general idea is to boost the internally generated revenue (IGR) of the state, which is not bad in itself. But there are ways of doing it without looking stupid.

Government ministries, in our own estimation, are designed to formulate policies for good governance. Civil servants are there to advise government on the appropriate way to execute those policies to ensure good governance. Ministries, on only one commodity-SECRETS.

Is the government in any way encouraging civil servants to sell its secrets to the highest bidder just to generate revenue? This is what is going to happen when subventions cease and salaries are made dependent on what each ministry is able to generate.

This is a policy thrust without precedent for the simple reason that government in itself is not meant to be a commercial enterprise.

Is the government of Imo State thinking of registering these ministries with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), indicating who the board members are as well as the shareholders? Will Okorocha be ready, at the end of each year, to organise an annual general meeting (AGM) to declare to the people of the state the balance sheet complete with the profit-and-loss account? Did he stop to reflect on the impact of this policy on the morale of staff, their loyalty and allegiance to constituted authority? If the people of the state are to pay commercial rates for government services, will they also be expected to pay taxes?

Governments exist to serve the people, provide social services, employment and so on. Isn't Okorocha wilfully abdicating this responsibility with the ill-advised commercialisation policy? He must respond to good counsel and drop this policy. It is anti-people.

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