25 November 2012

Nigeria: The Death of Monetisation Policy


During his Media chat last Sunday, President Goodluck Jonathan made a squint remark concerning the monetisation policy.

Introduced in 2005 by the Olusegun Obasanjo's administration, the policy sought to reduce the cost of governance, facilitate budgeting and budgetary control; minimise waste and abuse of public facilities, obtain savings for capital projects, promote a culture of discipline and maintenance, etc by paying public officers for their accommodation, transportation, among other benefits as part of their wages or emoluments.

We are therefore surprised to hear the President talk about it as a good policy that is difficult to implement. We wonder what he would provide if he cannot operationalise a policy framework he inherits.

We note, however, that what the President refused to say was that, his administration has jettisoned the policy and taxpayers now have to pay double by providing these benefits to government officials and still pay it as part of their monthly salaries.

Governance through subterfuge does not augur well for democracy. This administration is yet to review the 2007 policy that was lauded as capable of helping Nigerians own their own houses. Nigerians are equally not blind to the secret procurement of cars worth billions of Naira to members of the National Assembly.

While members of the House of Representatives shipped in 400 Toyota Camry, Senators got more than 109 Prado jeeps, all 2012 models. Houses built for their principal officers were sold to them in this last dispensation and billions were again budgeted to providing more befitting ones for them. This, to us, amounts to misapplication of scarce resources.

Hundreds of the officials in ministries, department and agencies, including personal assistants and aides of the apparatchiks are today, chauffeured in the latest Toyota Prado or Land Cruiser jeeps and Sports Utility vehicles (SUVs). Nigerian governors appear to be making themselves tin gods, just like ministers.

This is not only evident in their tastes for expensive cars, state of the art houses, or their quests to own and fly in private jets.

Ministers are worst off in abusing the budgetary provisions and the monetisation policy. While nearly all ministers currently drive the Prado and the Land Cruiser jeeps, none of the ministries has such exotic cars approved for it, either in the 2012 or 2011 budgets.

If the Jonathan administration wants to repeal the policy, we think it is in the public interest to play straight. To pay monetised benefits and still pay his henchmen is corruption. The practice only benefits the political class and not the public servants.

It also compounds societal problems, impact negatively on productivity of workers and calls to question the sustainability of the public policies in the country, many which do not last up to four or five years.

We hold that the economy cannot manage this profligate and greedy lifestyle of public officers and it is more of lack of political will on this presidency that we would have such a policy somersault.

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