By Awassam Bassey
Comment A little over two years ago, specifically in April 2012, the Presidential Committee on the Rationalisation and Restructuring of Federal Parastatals, Commissions and Agencies headed by former Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Steve Oronsaye, submitted a report to President Goodluck Jonathan. After a long wait, a government White Paper on the Committee’s report recommended that about 220 agencies out of a total 541 federal government agencies should be scrapped with their functions transferred to agencies perceived to be performing similar duties.
One of such agencies recommended for scrapping is The Fiscal Responsibility Commission or FRC for short. Other high-profile agencies include the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Crimes Commission (ICPC). it is easy to see that the agencies most hit by the Oronsaye Report seem to be agencies that have and are still recording successes in the execution of their mandates. No matter what anyone might say, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has achieved probably even more than those who established it might have thought possible. One can say the same for the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Crimes Commission ICPC) though its achievements seem muffled by the conservative nature of its leaders.
When I think of the Fiscal Responsibility Commission, I think of those who worked tirelessly in the House of Representatives, especially the House Committee Chairman on Finance at the time, John EnohOwan, and I also remember our late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua. Many Nigerians may not remember that the Fiscal Responsibility Act was one of the first bills Yar’adua signed into law upon assuming office in May 2007. The import of that signature was not lost on the international community. Clearly, it pointed the direction in which the administration wanted to lead Nigeria as the Fiscal Responsibility Act provides for prudent management of the nation’s resources through greater accountability and transparency in fiscal operations.
The FRC Act 2007 established the Fiscal Responsibility Commission, FRC, charged with the monitoring and enforcement of the Act to promote the country’s economic objectives. In other words, the Commission was mandated to reform the running of Nigeria’s public finances through regular scrutiny of government’s monetary activities, rigid investigation and public reporting backed by a firm dedication to enforcement under the rule of law. Ssince its establishment, the Fiscal Responsibility Commission has ensured that government agencies paid over N220 billion into government coffers with a yearly breakdown of about N17 billion in 2009; N36.8 billion in 2010; N71 billion in 2011, and N95.3 billion in 2012. Those are big sums of money that would ordinarily go down the drain were it not for the eagle eyes of the FRC.
I read in the media where the acting Chairman of the Commission, Victor Muroaka, recently listed seven states which have implemented the Fiscal Responsibility Law by setting up the Fiscal Responsibility Commission to enforce the law in their respective states. The said seven states, including Taraba, Ekiti, Kwara, and Kebbi have, by setting up the FRC, signed up to good governance and transparency.
A look at the monthly allocations released to Nigeria’s 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, shows clearly that the listed states that have implemented fiscal responsibility are among the ones that receive the least amount from the Federation Account. One can then imagine the gains that would accrue to the government of the federation if big oil-producing states and rich states like AkwaIbom, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Kano and Lagos were to follow the footsteps of Ekiti, Taraba, Kwara and Kebbi and set up the Fiscal Responsibility Commission in their states.
I can understand if redundant and parasitic agencies are asked to stop existing but agencies which encourage financial transparency and, in the process, launder Nigeria’s image internationally such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), and the Fiscal Responsibility Commission (FRC) should be allowed to stay alive and perform their functions.
The Presidential Committee on the Rationalisation and Restructuring of Federal Parastatals, Commissions and Agencies aka Oronsaye Committee, which recommended the scrapping of Fiscal Responsibility Commission in the believe that their functions are similar to those of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commision (RMAFC) and the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC) erred in their judgment, same way it blundered in recommending that the duties of the EFCC and ICPC should be transferred (or returned) to the Nigeria Police Force.
While the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) monitors the accruals into and disbursement of revenue from the Federation Account and reviews the revenue allocation formula for the three tiers of government; and the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC) is charged with the responsibility of managing issues pertaining to compensation and remuneration in the public service, the Fiscal Responsibility Commission has a mandate to entrench national and international standards in public finance management practices in the country.
It is believed in some quarters that scrapping an agency might lead to reduction of the wage bill for the government but one wonders how much money the government hopes to save in scrapping an agency like the Fiscal Responsibility Commission that raked in over N220 billion in just four years. The news media have also reported that since its establishment, government’s funding to the Fiscal Responsibility Commission has been in the region of about N3.7 billion only. Simple economics holds that in a scenario where you put in N3.7 billion and reap over N220 billion, there is need for caution on the side of government to ignore the recommendation to scrap a revenue-generating agency in the same manner as the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS).
The EFCC has a similar success story of recovering billions of naira from politically exposed persons, public officials, bank executives, local and international fraudsters among others. President Goodluck Jonathan has a duty to allow these agencies continue in their efforts to sanitise the way government conducts its business. That way, the labour of those who toiled day and night to establish the EFCC, ICPC, and FRC will not be in vain.
Awassam Bassey can be reached at email@example.com or Twitter: @donabassey